Porch & Parish Magazine - Serving the Zachary, LA Community

Zachary Stories

Winn-Dixie heroes prevent gift card scam

Story by Lauren Pope, staff writer

Betty is often the first person people see when they come into Winn-Dixie in Zachary. She works behind the counter at the customer service desk, and notices quickly when a customer seems to be in distress.

That was the case a few days ago when an older woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, came into the store frantically looking for gift cards with her phone held closely to her ear. Betty recognized that this type of behavior usually meant someone was being scammed and alerted her manager, Gregory. They found the woman gathering up all the Home Depot gift cards that she could find and tried to get her attention, but she was too focused on the threatening man on the other side of the phone line to pay much attention.  

Thinking quickly, another clerk named Rhonda drew up a quick sign that said simply “Hang up the phone. You are being scammed!” 

Still, the customer was terrified to hang up on the scammer who had told her that if she didn’t do as asked she would be in legal trouble due to things planted on her iPad. It is a fairly sophisticated scam called a Browser Hijacking in which the scammer first takes control of the user’s browser and then directs them to call a number which they claim is “Apple Support” to regain control of their device.

They told the woman that she would need to procure $10,000 in gift cards, an amount that would wipe out her entire savings, to clear her iPad of the illegal content that they had placed on it. These scammers won’t let the individual hang up and often guide them through a complex process to get gift cards from several different stores. By the time the woman had reached Winn-Dixie, she’d already purchased $500 worth of gift cards from another retailer. 

Now, she was too afraid to hang up, even after she saw the sign. Rhonda didn’t hesitate. She took the phone from the woman and hung up on the scammer. That sudden shock was enough for the woman to realize what was happening, and Gregory led her to the back of the store to get some water and calm down while they waited for Zachary PD to arrive. 

The police were able to help her get into contact with her financial institution to make sure she didn’t lose any more money and they helped her to regain control of her devices. They explained that these scammers often target older adults and usually ask for the same thing – gift cards. 

Gregory explained that retailers are given some alerts when it comes to spotting scammers. The number one thing that they see is this: Someone comes into the store with their phones glued to their ear asking desperately for gift cards. Then they’ll come up with a huge stack of gift cards, still with their phones to their ears, and seem to want to get out of the store as quickly as possible. Winn-Dixie employees have intervened in a half dozen of these cases across the last several years, and scammers are always evolving their methods. 

The most important thing to know is that no legitimate service would ever ask for payment via gift card. If someone you don’t know (or perhaps someone who is impersonating someone you do!) is asking you for gift card information, it is a scam. 

Credit card companies have put some limits into gift card purchases in place to try to mitigate the amount that these scammers get, but even if they won’t get the $10,000 they want, the scammers are still perfectly happy to get a few hundred dollars, leaving the victim feeling shaken and violated. 

As for the victim of this scam attempt, she is incredibly grateful to the quick thinking of the staff at Winn-Dixie. They went above and beyond her expectations to protect their customers, and made a traumatic moment a bit more manageable with their kindness and professionalism. 

Sometimes being a hometown hero is just a matter of paying attention and realizing that something just doesn’t seem right. Here at Porch & Parish, we recognized Winn-Dixie a few months back for having the most affordable King Cakes in town. Turns out, they have some of the most responsive and caring employees too!

Latest Podcast Episode

Connecting the Zachary Community with local leaders and influencers through candid conversations every Monday. Available wherever you listen to podcasts!

Subscribe to the Porch & Parish Newsletter

Stay up to date on all of the latest news, events, and information in and around Zachary, Louisiana. Always fresh. Always FREE.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

%d bloggers like this: