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Target shopper thwarts suspected grandparent scammer

Posted: 2:52 PM, Feb 14, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-14 14:52:38-05

NEW YORK — A quick-thinking shopper and a Target store clerk helped save a grandmother from a potential scam that could have cost her $1,000.

Karen Rodder was grabbing some items in a Target store in southwest Ohio, but what she heard while walking past a rack of gift cards stopped her in her tracks.

"I overheard a conversation from what I assumed was an employee at Target," Rodder said.

A 79-year-old woman, who asked to be identified as Helen, was in a heated conversation with a young store clerk as she tried to buy $1,000 in gift cards. The clerk was questioning her reason for needing so many cards.

It all started an hour earlier, when Helen got a phone call purportedly from her college-aged grandson, who said he had just been arrested.

"I said, 'Who is this?' And he said, 'Your grandson,'" Helen explained. "I said, 'Daniel, is this you?'"

He replied that he was indeed Daniel, although he needed her to remind him of what his name was. He said he needed bail money immediately, and that he did not want Helen to tell his mom or dad.

"I needed to get to Target and get two $500 gift certificates," Helen said.

Rodder said it was obvious in the gift card aisle that Helen wasn't taking in what the store clerk had to say, and she was still determined to buy the gift cards.

"I said, 'You don't seem to be believing this person working here, but this is a very common scam,'" Rodder said she told Helen.

She told Helen it probably was not her real grandson on the phone and she had fallen for what is known as the grandparent scam, which has bilked millions from thousands of unsuspecting victims in recent years.

So, Helen put down the gift cards and called the police.

Helen wanted to publicly thank Rodder and the Target clerk for saving her at least $1,000, though she doesn't know the name of the store clerk.

"All the people at Target was real nice to us, and Karen has been extra nice to us," Helen said.

A manager at the Target store confirmed the incident, but said no one could speak on camera.

Target trains its clerks to politely question any older person buying gift cards with large sums of money in order to make sure they are not being scammed, according to the company. Additionally, many Target stores have set $100 as the top gift card value and no longer sell $500 Visa, MasterCard or iTunes gift cards.

As they say: If you see something, say something, to perhaps save a senior from a scam and so you don't waste your money.