Expensive lessons after senior loses $68K in gift card scam

The FTC says more than $230 million is lost per year to gift card scams and that number is on the rise.

As part of Consumer Fraud Protection week, Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side have the story of one brave senior who wants others to learn from his horrible and costly scam story.

It’s been two years since Copeland Bertsche lost nearly $70,000 in an elaborate gift card scam – but the scars left over still sting.

“It saps your self-confidence, you’re embarrassed by it, how could you be so stupid,” Bertsche said.

But even at 81, Co, as his friends call him, is still whip smart — retired from a career in law, he also has an MBA.

“These guys are really sophisticated in what they’re doing,” he said.

The scam started with a phone call: a conman posing as Apple Tech Support claiming his computer had been hacked by a criminal and he needed access to Co’s computer to halt the hack.

“He got remote access and I sat there with him for hours in front of my computer,” Bertsche said.

To test his computer fix, the scammer said he needed the senior to buy gift cards. So over a nine-day period, Co bought 140 gift cards – most were $500 a pop.

The scammer promised the gift card charges would never hit his credit card account and asked for the codes on the back.

“I charged for gift cards – a total amount of $68,500,” Bertshce said.

Co concedes his credit card company called a couple of times about the irregular charges, but the conman instructed him to lie and tell them the charges were approved for graduation cards.

After finding he’d been defrauded, the senior disputed every charge with his credit card company but his refund requests were denied.

Co says his credit card company put him on a payment plan — a monthly reminder and a lesson he wants everyone to learn from.

“Don’t trust anything, don’t trust anybody,” he said.

Here are some red flags to watch for in a gift card scam:

-The caller say they’re calling from your computer tech support or a government official, like from the IRS. That normally doesn’t happen.

-Next, they’ll say the problem is a computer virus or you owe money to a utility and it is urgent.

-And then the biggest red flag is they will ask you to buy gift cards and give them the code on the back. If someone asks you to do that — just hang up.

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