An Oxford Kroger employee noticing an international student making large purchases of gift cards suspected the student was a scam victim and called police.
The responding officer found the victim visibly upset and the employee standing with her following the report made at 6:10 p.m. Sept. 7.
The student told the officer she had been contacted on Instagram that morning and was told her identity was at risk and a company he worked for could help her if she would cooperate and pay them.
He told her to purchase mass quantities of Google Play gift cards as payment so she made several trips to Kroger that day to purchase the cards and then photographed them front and back, including the pin, and texted them to a phone number he provided.
She said every time she did this, she was told it was not enough money and she needed to purchase more.
Altogether, she spent $2,700 on Google Play gift cards including four cards with $500 each, two with $100 each and one each with $200 and $300.
She told the officer she was unable to pull up the messages because her account had been temporarily suspended for “spam content.” Before the suspension, she had been given a phone number by the man saying he worked for Instagram customer service.
While the officer was talking to her, she received a call from that number. She answered and put the call on speaker. At one point, the caller told her to give him her email and Instagram passwords. The officer told her to not do that and the caller told her, “Don’t listen to whoever is around you. They’re lying.”
She gave her phone to the officer who asked the caller his name and he provided a name but hung up when the officer identified himself as a police officer. He advised the victim to block the number and not answer texts, calls or social media messages from people asking for money.
She did not know how to block the number so the officer helped her do that on her phone. He also helped her contact the bank and explained the situation to their fraud department. The bank temporarily refunded the $2,700 and deactivated her debit card.
The officer drove her home and attempted to call the number she had been texting and was told the subscriber was unavailable.
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