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Woman urges families to discuss scams after mother loses thousands

Cynthia Bandy said a scammer took $14,000 from her mother through a fake PayPal scam.

INDIANAPOLIS — We tell our kids not to talk to strangers, but what about our parents?

That is Cynthia Bandy's message after she says a scammer tricked her mom into handing over a lot of money.

"She called me just devastated and in tears," Bandy said. "She said she had been scammed out of $14,000."

Bandy said it started when her mom got an email alerting her to potential fraud.

"It looked like PayPal had charged her card almost $1,000. So she was like, 'Oh my gosh, let me call this 800 number that was on there. And she got a hold of this guy,'" Bandy said. 

That's when the scammer told mom she needed to act fast.

"She needed to get her assets off of credit cards and out of the bank," Bandy said.

She said the $7,000 her mom had in savings went to Bitcoin and the rest to gift cards.

"Even the manager came out at that point and was like, 'Are you being scammed?'" Bandy said. 

But afraid and feeling rushed, mom moved forward with the gift card purchase.

Jennifer Adamany, with the Better Business Bureau, said scammers are successful because they catch you off guard.

"They're great about creating a sense of urgency," Adamany said.

Scams are predatory and designed to attack people when they're least expecting it. There's often a consequence included in the message as well. 

"If you receive something, don't necessarily go off of the contact information on that form of communication you receive. Go to a legitimate source," Adamany said. 

Instead of calling the number listed in an email or text, look up the number online.

In the first nine months of 2021 alone, nearly 40,000 people reported $148 million stolen using gift cards, according to the FTC. Scammers often opt for gift cards because they don't offer the same protections as a credit card, and they're tough to track.

As for Bandy's mom, she filed a police report and is working with her credit card company to see if she can get out the charges.

Other popular scams include the COVID-19 vaccination card scam, Medicare card scams and Social Security calls. 

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