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Forest Hills Resident Loses More Than $8K in Gift Card Scam, Police Say

QUEENS — A 79-year-old Forest Hills man was robbed of more than $8,000 through a so called “grandparent scam" involving gift cards, police officials said.

The man received a phone call on June 9, that his grandson was in jail and needed money to be bailed out, said Deputy Inspector Robert Ramos, commanding officer of the 112th Precinct, at a Community Council meeting Wednesday night.

The caller then told the victim to buy two gift cards for a total of $8,480 and give him the numbers located on the back of the cards, police officials said.

The victim complied and later called his grandson to make sure he was released, only to find out that he was never in jail.

“If someone calls you up and …  the first thing they ask for is payment in gift cards, right away you know it’s a scam,” Ramos said, noting that the precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, continues to see a variety of phone scams.

“You give the individual those serial numbers and now he has the ability to use those gift cards even though he is not in the possession of them," he said.

► READ MORE: Your Guide to Avoiding Common Scams in the City

Ramos also discussed another incident in which a 28-year-old woman received an email on June 12, which seemed to be from the IRS.

The email said that an arrest warrant had been issued for her and that she needed to get electronic gift cards from Best Buy for a total of $1,430 if she didn’t want to get arrested.

The woman bought the cards and later provided their numbers to the scammers.

Ramos reminded local residents that the IRS would never contact taxpayers over the phone or email and would not ask for payments in gift cards. Instead, he said, the agency contacts people via snail mail.

But he noted that people often “get nervous and don’t think clearly” when they get notices from the IRS, even if they don't owe them any money.

“These people are very good at what they do,” he said about scammers. “They know how to scare you, they know how to get you to the point where you believe them.”

“My suggestion is please, if you get a phone call like this, just hang up,” he said.

He also noted that arresting people behind the scams is challenging because often times they call from overseas.