GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A Gaston County grandmother says she lost $400 because of a clever scam.
The woman said she was embarrassed about what happened and hasn't told all of her family members, so she asked to remain anonymous for an interview.
The woman said she received a message through social media from someone she believed to be a relative because of the profile's information and the picture that was being used.
She said the person who messaged her explained that she may be able to receive money from a federal grant program because she was an American citizen who always worked and always tried to do the right thing.
The grandmother called the number and started speaking with the alleged scammers. She said she was told she was eligible to receive $9,000 in government funds.
The woman said the scammers instructed her to purchase several iTunes gift cards and send them pictures of the barcode information on the backs of the cards. She said she did what they asked.
"I bought $300 worth at one time," the woman told WBTV.
She said she continued to communicate with the scammers over a period of multiple days. The grandmother said she had eventually purchased $400 worth of the iTunes cards. When the scammers continued to request more money in exchange for the $9,000 sum, the Gastonia resident realized she was being duped.
"I was furious. If I could have reached my hand through the phone I would have choked somebody," the woman said.
She said the scammers eventually stopped contacting her once she started ignoring their calls and texts. She said she has yet to receive a dime of the money she was promised.
"You think somebody's really trying to do a good thing for you and then you find out that it was nothing there except someone stealing your money," said the grandmother.
Tom Bartholomy, president of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Southern Piedmont and Western North Carolina, said his organization started hearing about iTunes cards being used in scams a few months ago.
"It's become the preferred payment method for scammers now. They've always wanted something that's not traceable, not retrievable and is converted somewhat easily into cash," explained Batholomy.
He said the scammers will use the information from the cards to purchase iPads or iPhones and then they will sell the purchased items for cash.
Bartholomy said scammers have been using the same strategy for years, but will use new methods to accomplish their goal. He offered a warning for members of the public who may get contacted by a scammer.
"If you ever have to pay for something to get something, to get cash in return, that's got scam written all over it," said Bartholomy.
The grandmother said she plans to file a police report regarding the situation she dealt with.
She encourages others to be weary of social media profiles too.