Law enforcement in Utah say they recently busted a gift card scheme targeting elderly victims who lost thousands of dollars in a scam involving Walmart gift cards.
Junliang Tang, 35, and Shuyan Wang, 33, both Chinese nationals, were indicted by the Utah Attorney General’s Office and face multiple charges for defrauding individuals, primarily the elderly, by manipulating them into loading large sums of money onto Walmart gift cards. Law enforcement say the suspects posed as government agents, a computer service person, bail bondsmen and IRS agents to fool victims. The fraud type, which Card Not Present reported on before the holidays, has emerged in recent months and is plaguing consumers and merchants alike.
Utah officials said the targets were told they would lose their money if it wasn’t transferred onto a Walmart gift card. Once the gift cards were purchased, the victims were instructed to scratch off the code protector on the back of the card and then send a photo of the card to the caller. The suspects then allegedly used the fraudulently obtained gift cards to purchase “closed loop” gift cards—gift cards that can only be redeemed at the merchant shown on the card—at Walmart locations. The closed loop cards were sold on online marketplaces for cash, resulting in a profit for the alleged criminals.
The scheme is part of a much larger ring operating the gift card scam in as many as 46 states, say law enforcement officials, who estimate it has resulted in more than $600,000 in losses to both victims and to Walmart.