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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A big-name retailer and the AARP have joined forces to warn people about a growing scam: impostors posing as a loved one, or even the IRS, and demanding payment with gift cards.

The Federal Trade Commission said the number of these reported scams has jumped 270-percent over the last three years.

Trinidad Gonzalez said she’s the kind of person who thought she would never fall for such a scam, but she was wrong.

“All the steps that were being done and taken seemed real,” she said.

Gonzalez is still trying to face the fact that scammers preyed on her emotions to pad their pockets.

About three months ago, she said a man claiming to be her grandson called saying he was in jail and needed thousands of dollars immediately. He then put someone on the phone who posed as an attorney.

But the caller said he would make it easy for the 76-year-old grandmother. He told her to purchase gift cards from Walmart and give him the numbers on the back of the cards. He warned her not to answer questions from store employees.

“They asked me do you know where this money is going to and I said it’s going to my grandchildren,” said Gonzalez.

She lost $4,000 in the scam.

According to the FTC, 26-percent of scam victims paid with a gift card between January and September this year. That’s up from only seven percent in 2015.

Last month, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy announced steps to try to curb the fraud. Among them: reducing gift card limits, restricting the redemption of gift cards for other gift cards, and enhancing employee training.

Best Buy took it a step further by teaming up with the AARP in a new public service announcement warning of the scam.

“We certainly see more people reporting it because we are empowering customers now not to be scared about talking about this,” said Best Buy spokesperson Boua Xiong.

The FTC said if someone calls you demanding to pay them with a gift card, don’t. The cards cannot be used to pay for bail or taxes.

If you think you’ve been scammed, you should report the fraud to the card company and then tell the FTC.


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