EMERYVILLE (KPIX 5) — An elderly man who was duped by a scam involving gift cards is sharing his story so others won’t fall victim; meanwhile there are questions as to why a suspicious purchase wasn’t stopped at the register.
“I got a call at home and the voice said ‘Grampy, this is Sean, your grandson.'”
80-year-old retired psychiatrist David Tomasini thought his grandson was in trouble with the law, and was turning to him for help before calling his parents.
“It seemed so real I never thought it was a scam,” said Tomasini.
Then someone posing as a lawyer even got on the phone to explain the circumstances.
“He said I couldn’t call him because he was at the jail and there was no direct line,” said Tomasini. “And I asked if he needed to be paid, and he said, ‘No, the court takes care of that, so all we need is the money for his bail.’ Sounded very legitimate.”
So legitimate, Tomasini followed the scammers instructions and went to the Emeryville Best Buy to get three gift cards at $1,000 each in order to bail his grandson out of jail.
A few hours later the scammers called Tomasini to get the code numbers from the back of the cards. And then the reality hit.
“I was at work and my sister called and said, ‘Oh my God, dad just got scammed out of $3,000,” said Tomasini’s daughter, Gina Brooke.
Tomasini filed a police report with the Oakland Police Department after learning his grandson was never in jail and was ever never in trouble.
His case is far from the first. In fact, Best Buy has posted warnings about this scam on its webpage but inside the Emeryville store at the registers we found no such warnings.
“Best Buy knows about the scam and the real corker is that Best Buy keeps the money,” said Tomasini. “Because the cards cannot be converted to cash. They can only be used at Best Buy. So my money goes back to Best Buy. They buy goods and sell on black market for whatever they can get.”
Best Buy says it works closely with law enforcement once a crime has been reported and its employees have been trained to spot seniors buying high amounts of gift cards. But no one stopped Tomasini.
“I work in hospital and I deal with a lot of elderly people, and I was surprised how many of them said they’ve gotten the same phone call,”
Late today Best Buy released this statement:
“We certainly feel badly that Mr. Tomasini appears to be the victim of this scam. But once the victim shares the code on the back of the gift card, it is like giving away cash and it is nearly impossible to get back. We have warned customers and worked hard to train our associates about these scams for months. At the Emeryville store alone this year, our associates have helped more than 20 customers from becoming victims.”