NewsNewsChannel 5 Investigates


My mom fell victim to scammers and is sharing her story so you can protect yourself

Posted at 5:48 PM, Oct 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-06 07:25:38-04

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (WTVF) — If you got a call or an email from a scammer, would you realize it in time? Before they got your money or personal information?

You'd like to think so. But do you know the warning signs and red flags to look for?

Scammers are coming up with new ways to steal your money all of the time. But many of them use a lot of the same tricks.

Best Buy Geek Squad scam bills

The latest scam going around is the Best Buy or Geek Squad scam. And we found someone who recently fell victim who never thought it would happen to her. Now she realizes it can happen to anyone. And she's sharing her experience so hopefully the same thing doesn't happen to you.

Eighty-one-year-old Barbara Kraus, who also happens to be my mom, recently got what appeared to be a bill from Best Buy's Geek Squad for three years of antivirus protection for her computers. She's a longtime Geek Squad customer, so she didn't question it.

Barbara Kraus fell victim to the Best Buy Geek Squad scam

My mom, though, did not want three years of anti-virus protection. She likes to pay for one year at a time. So, she called the number on the bill.

And that's how they got her.

Scammers are sending out these fake invoices through the mail and email. In fact, my dad got one too. My mom didn't notice, though, what should have been a red flag: the unusual way "Geék Sqüad" is written on the invoice.

Soon after she began talking with the woman who answered the phone, the woman told my mom that somehow $4,000 from her bank account had wound up going to Best Buy and they wanted to get it back to her. And all they needed, you guessed it, was her bank account information.

"That’s the stupid part, is that I didn’t go, 'Wait a minute? How would that be the case? It can’t be the case,'" Kraus said.

By this time, a man had taken over the conversation and he kept my mom on the line chatting while the woman, bank statements show, was trying to withdraw money from my mom's account.

"So, this person is trying to clear out your bank account?" I asked my mom.

"I would say yes," she replied.

"What do you think about that?" we wondered.

She gave out a big laugh, then asked, "What do I think?"

Her reply, "Scandalous!"

Next, the scammer told my mom she needed to go to the store to buy gift cards.

"Four of them, $500 each," Kraus explained.

First, he sent her to CVS where the clerk may have been suspicious and would only sell her two.

The scammer then had my mom scratch off and read the numbers on the back to him which essentially gave him access to all of that money. But he wanted more.

"He said, 'I think what we’ll do, can you go to Target?' And I said, 'Yeah, I can,'" my mom recalled.

By the time she got to Target, she'd been on the phone with this team of scammers for more than two and a half hours. And that's when it finally hit her.

"All of a sudden I thought, 'Wait a minute. This is absolutely absurd,'" Kraus said.

Best Buy told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "We have a security team constantly working to prevent consumers from falling victim to scams that are using the Best Buy or Geek Squad brand. That includes working directly with federal law enforcement and other retailers."

Detective Sergeant Lori Russ with the Brentwood Police Department told NewsChannel 5 Investigates her department gets at least one or two reports of residents being scammed a week.

She advised, "Never give your Social Security number, and never give your banking information over the phone."

Russ explained that scammers are always coming up with new ways to steal your money, but still popular is the old grandparent scam where the caller claims to be a grandchild who needs help. Also still popular: scams where the caller insists you've failed to show up for jury duty or owe money to the IRS.

Russ said that to protect yourself you should educate yourself, and know that scammers will often insist on secrecy and tell you not to tell anyone what you're doing.

They'll do everything they can to keep you on the phone. And they can be really persistent.

Target gift cards used in the Best Buy Geek Squad scam

"[They're] getting you to go to the bank or go to Target to buy those gift cards, and even if they’re super nice and trying to be helpful and saying, 'I just want to help you out in the situation,' most of the time, if they’re really persistent and pushy, absolutely that should be a red flag," Russ said.

"I mean really, I should have caught it near the beginning," Kraus now realizes.

She lost $1,000 to this scam but hopes that by talking about it, others can learn from her mistakes.

"Be aware that it can happen to anybody even though you think, 'I wouldn’t be scammed, no way,'" she cautioned.

Just remember: if someone is trying to pressure you to turn over personal information or send them money, stop for a second and ask yourself, "does this make sense?" And when in doubt, just hang up.

We did try calling the number on the bill that my mom had called. It's already been disconnected. But you can bet the scammers have already found a new number to use.

From Best Buy and [] to help consumers spot various cybercrime, fraud, and tech support scams:

Fraud Prevention Tips

  • Limit sharing your personal information. Be thoughtful when you get an email or phone request for your personal information, like a bank account or credit card number.
  • If you’re pressured to act quickly, odds are it’s a scam.
  • Don’t open email attachments or click on links unless you’re certain they’re from legitimate sources. If you’re uncertain, you can always call 1-888-BESTBUY to confirm.
  • Beware of emails and texts that have you "verify" personal information online. Most legitimate companies will never request personal information in this manner, including Best Buy.
  • If you receive a call or email asking for payment by gift card, know that it’s a scam. Report it to your local authorities and the Federal Trade Commission right away.
  • Never provide your gift card number and pin to anyone you don’t know. Once those numbers are gone, so is your money.

Best Buy’s Fraud Prevention

  • We have a security team constantly working to prevent consumers from falling victim to scams that are using the Best Buy or Geek Squad brand. That includes working directly with federal law enforcement and other retailers.
  • We have signs on the gift card displays to warn customers of potential fraud. Our employees receive training on warning signs for customers who may be victims of a scam.
  • We’ve also reduced gift card purchase limits, and no longer allow our gift cards to be used to purchase third-party gift cards. We’ve substantially reduced the maximum value of gift cards to make them less attractive to thieves. Limits are now $500 per card at a total daily limit of $2,000 per person; it was previously a single card maximum of $2,000 and total daily limit of $6,000.
  • Our stores also have warnings on the credit card readers at the checkout counters that are automatically prompted when a customer purchases gift cards above a certain increment. The notice includes information around gift card scams that a customer must read and agree that they are “aware” before finalizing their purchase.