With spring in full swing, many homeowners are making the rounds to Lowe’s and Target to stock up on products to refresh their living spaces. The two retailers have thousands of stores spread across the U.S. that pull in millions of shoppers every single day. But all those consumers need to heed one new warning that has come from both companies concerning a major scam that is costing some customers thousands of dollars. Read on to find out what problem Lowe’s and Target are alerting you of now.
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According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers have gained quite a foothold in the U.S. over the past few years through the use of gift cards. “Both the number of reported gift card scams and total losses have increased every year since 2018,” the agency warned in a Dec. 2021 report. The FTC also released data showing that in the first nine months of 2021 alone, around 40,000 people had reported $148 million stolen through gift cards. And this is hardly even the full scope of the problem, as the agency said most incidences of these types of scams actually go unreported.
“Scammers favor gift cards because they are easy for people to find and buy, and they have fewer protections for buyers compared to some other payment options,” the FTC explained. “Scammers can get quick cash, the transaction is largely irreversible, and they can remain anonymous.”
On May 5, NBC-affiliate WFLA in Tampa, Florida, reported that a Bay Area man recently lost more than $7,000 because of a gift card scam. The man, who is a disabled veteran with a traumatic brain injury, said it all started when his laptop froze and a message appeared directing him to call a listed phone number for help. According to the victim, the person at the end of the call demanded he buy gift cards from both Lowe’s and Target to clear up a credit card issue and was “extremely convincing” in that he could face criminal charges if he did not comply.
“I felt like I was being held hostage by them. They kept me on the phone. They said I had a time limit,” he told the news outlet. All in all, he was scammed out of about $5,000 in Lowe’s cards and $2,000 in Target cards.
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Target is “aware of the prevalence of gift card schemes and takes them very seriously,” company spokesman Brian Harper-Tibaldo, told WFLA. According to Harper-Tibaldo, Target has signs in its stores alerting shoppers to the issue and has also been training team members to watch out for this type of scam. “This year, we’ve made additional efforts to help prevent gift card schemes, including communication to all of our stores, team member training and new system restrictions,” he added.
Lowe’s spokesperson Larry Costello told WFLA that the company is currently working with the Florida victim on his particular case. “We take gift card fraud seriously and maintain practices designed to help reduce fraud, including in-store signage, online warnings and standard processes for associates,” Costello said. “We encourage associates to keep an eye out for distressed customers buying gift cards and intervene, as needed.”
The FTC said that scammers usually demand gift cards be bought from specific retailers—and at the top of that list is Target. According to the agency, shoppers reported losing a total of $35 million from Target gift cards scams, which was more than twice as much money that was reported lost through any other brand. “In the first nine months of 2021, people who reported losing money buying gift cards mentioned Target stores more than other retailers,” the FTC noted. “Reports suggest that Walmart, Best Buy, CVS, and Walgreens stores are also popular with scammers.”
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