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Helpful shopper, Target employee save woman from falling victim to 'grandparent scam'

Posted at 12:00 PM, Feb 10, 2020

Thanks to a quick-thinking shopper and a Target store clerk, an older woman was saved from a scam that could have cost her thousands of dollars.

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 with what I assumed was an employee of Target," Rodder said.

A 79-year-old woman, who asked only to be identified as Helen, was in a heated conversation with a young store clerk, as she tried to buy $1,000 worth of gift cards.

The clerk was questioning the woman as to why she needed so many gift cards.

Woman was falling for the 'grandparent scam'

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

"I said, 'Who is this?' He said, 'It's your grandson,'" Helen said. "So 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 cards," Helen said.

Rodder said it was obvious in the gift card aisle that Helen did not grasp what the Target employee was trying to tell her, and that she was still determined to buy the gift cards.

That's when Rodder decided to get involved and jumped into the conversation.

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

Rodder explained to Helen that it probably was not her real grandson on the phone and that she had fallen for what is known as the "grandparent scam," which has bilked thousands of seniors for millions of dollars in recent years.

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

Girl in a jacket

Helen now wants to publicly thank Rodder and the Target clerk for saving her at least a thousand dollars, though she doesn't know the name of the store clerk.

"I want to thank all the people at Target who were nice to us, and Karen was extra nice to us," Helen said.

A manager at the Target store confirmed the incident but did not make anyone available for an interview.

Store clerks trained to question unusual gift card sales

Target says it trains its clerks to politely question any older person buying hundreds of dollars of gift cards in order to make sure they are not being scammed.

In addition, many Target stores no longer sell $500 Visa, MasterCard or iTunes gift cards. In order to help fight scams, Target now caps gift card values at $100.

They have set $100 as the top value to help fight scams.

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


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