Retailers and law enforcement agencies are warning consumers about gift card scam hitting NE Ohio

CLEVELAND - Gift cards aren't just a convenience for shoppers. They're a scam artist's dream.

The Lorain County Sheriff's Department is dealing with a scam like this right now.

"They're untraceable. You give it to somebody? Might as well say goodbye to your money," Sgt. Randal Koubeck told News 5.

Koubeck said there's a man impersonating a deputy, calling people up and threatening arrest or a fine for missing jury duty.

"But they want them to pay in gift cards," he explained.

Similar scams have been reported in nearly every county. Scammers impersonating family members, IRS agents and police officers always demanding gift cards as a payment.

"They're all trying to get you to immediately provide electronic payment," Sue McConnell with the Better Business Bureau said.

Behind billions of dollars lost every year and impacting so many people, stores are taking notice.

Target: News 5 found that Target is now training cashiers to watch for this specifically. According to a corporate spokeswoman, they've been able to flag these many times and stop folks from falling victim. They've also added signage near their gift card selection.

Walmart: Walmart is doing something similar; they are now limiting the number of cards customers can buy.

CVS: Some stores play warnings about these scams through their speaker systems. They reportedly train employees and also limit their sales.

Giant Eagle: Cerks, right here in Greater Cleveland, have stepped in and stopped shoppers from spending thousands on gift cards. The grocery store chain has also altered its policies: "Team Members to remain vigilant and work with customers who may be victims of attempted fraudulent activity."

Police tell News 5 if you ever get a call or an email that you're questioning, give them a call before you do anything.

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