WEST ORANGE, NJ — Among the police reports submitted by the West Orange Police Department (WOPD) in January were several incidents involving victims who were deceived into purchasing gift cards under the guise that this would help them fight fraudulent charges found on personal accounts.
The descriptions of incidents below come directly from reports issued by the WOPD:
One individual reported that after discovering fraudulent charges on his iTunes account, he spent several hours on the phone with someone who told him that he needed to build up more credit in order to fight the fraudulent charge, specifically by purchasing gift cards. According to police, the victim followed these instructions and purchased gift cards in various amounts to Walgreens, Google Play, eBay and Target.
After purchasing 20 gift cards totaling $4,700, the victim communicated the redemption code written on each card to the original caller as well as a second “representative.” When the victim contacted his credit card company to advise the company of the situation, the account was canceled, and he was advised to monitor his remaining accounts.
Another victim of fraud reported that he purchased a computer in Whippany that wasn’t working properly when he attempted to set it up. After exchanging the computer for a new one, a pop-up ad appeared notifying him that someone was using his credit card and provided a phone number for him to call, according to the police report.
On the phone, the individual on the other line informed the victim that some unknown actor was attempting to withdraw $1,980 from his account. He then instructed the victim to withdraw that amount and send it to him through Zelle, a digital payment network, so that he could secure the money in a private account.
The victim abided by this request, but became suspicious when the person then inquired about purchasing iTunes gift cards. The victim informed the bank, which was able to locate the Email address of the person who received the $1,980, according to police. He was advised to keep an eye on his accounts for any further suspicious activity.
A third fraud victim reported that he received an Email stating that his 55-inch Sony 4K HDR Ultra HD Smart LED TV was on its way, although he had never ordered this product. In reading the Email, the victim noticed that the delivery address listed was in Texas and that a “customer service” phone number was provided.
When he called the number, the victim was informed that in order to un-hack the account, he would need to visit a nearby CVS Pharmacy, purchase a $200 eBay gift card and send the number from the back of the card to the “customer service” representative. After receiving the gift card number from the victim, the “customer service” representative then told the victim that there were two additional hackers involved in the transaction and that he would need to purchase two more gift cards in order to un-hack the account successfully.
At this point, the victim became suspicious, checked his account and contacted West Orange police when he noticed that his account did not show any evidence of the television purchase.
Later in the month, another victim reported that he received a direct message on Facebook with a post indicating an opportunity to receive $600 if he forwarded gift card information via Facebook Messenger. It was noted in the police report that the message came from the name of an acquaintance of the victim, but that the victim had not seen this person in approximately two years. The victim also told police that he felt the message was authentic.
According to the report, the victim then purchased a $50 Amazon gift card and forwarded the gift card serial number as well a photo of the receipt to the person via Facebook. He later received an Email from Facebook stating that the Email account associated with his Facebook account had been changed.
At the time that the victim contacted police, he had been locked out of his own Facebook account and his Facebook was being utilized to forward the same scam message to other users. The victim told police that he did not know how his Facebook account could have been accessed but believes that the account that originally contacted him is responsible for the fraudulent activity.
The police report also states that the victim did not notice any evidence of fraudulent activity through his bank account or credit card, and that he was advised to continue to monitor all accounts.
One Additional Report of Theft by Deception in January
An individual reported to police that he purchased a 1999 Isuzu truck for $3,500 and an additional $500 to store the vehicle from Aug. 19 to Feb. 20. According to the victim’s report, he was provided with the title, but never registered the vehicle because it was inoperable due to an issue with the transmission.
He also stated that he kept the vehicle in a garage because it needed work that he was doing little by little over several months. While passing by the garage in November, the victim noticed that the vehicle was no longer there, and he had difficulty contacting the seller.
According to the victim, the seller finally returned his call on Dec. 30 to explain that he had been hospitalized and that he no longer wanted to sell the vehicle and would return the $3,500 to the buyer on Jan. 3. The victim reported to the WOPD on Jan. 6 when he did not receive the money and all attempts to contact the seller had failed.
Click on the headlines below to read more West Orange police news from January 2020: