Dakota County deputy comes to rescue of woman being scammed

A Dakota County Sheriff’s detective likely helped save a woman thousands of dollars this week when he identified a scam in progress and stepped in to help.

Detective Ryan Olson was shopping at a local Walmart when he noticed a woman on her phone anxiously pacing around the gift card section. Sensing that something wasn’t right, he approached the woman and asked if the person on the other end of the call was instructing her to buy gift cards. When she replied ‘yes’ he informed her that she was the victim of a scam and encouraged her to hang up.

Olson works on the Electronic Crimes Task Force and says this is a very common scam in which the criminals claim to be the government, tech support, or even a family member and that to avoid something terrible from happening, they need to purchase gift cards and immediately hand over the bar code and PIN.

"Seeing that she was hesitant at what type of gift card to get made me think that something wasn’t right," said Olson. "At first she was scared but relieved when I identified myself as law enforcement."

After the woman hung up and explained what had happened, Olson learned that she had already been to another store and purchased $750 worth of gift cards. He quickly helped her call the company and freeze the card.

"The customer service agent right away was like, ‘We get these all the time the monies probably gone,’" he recalled. "Luckily for her, it was still there."

Olson says the scammers are usually based out of Europe or West Africa, and target senior citizens. 

He encourages victims of these types of crimes to report it to their local police department, as well as report it to the Federal Trade Commission.