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Target employees help customer who was targeted by a crook

Vicki Burton and Jonathan Edwardson suspected something wasn't right when a customer asked to buy $10,000 worth of gift cards.

The Boise Police Department recently honored two Target employees for helping a customer who was being scammed.

A man recently walked into the Target store at Chinden Blvd. and Eagle Rd., intending to buy thousands of dollars worth of gift cards.

He went to the counter where front-end manager Vicki Burton was working.

"When he mentioned the amount of $2,000, and he needed five of them, that was a big red flag for me," Burton said. "I told him it was none of my business, but (asked) did anyone approach him or call him on the phone, saying something about his family?

"He said, 'how did you know that?'"

Burton knew, because her store has seen this scam before, and employees are trained to be on the lookout.

"He was very thankful we shared with him what we know," said Jonathan Edwardson, the store's asset protection leader. "Whenever we see high-dollar gift card amounts, we like to be told what's going on so we can try to educate the guests and see what the reason is they are buying them."

Boise Police officers work closely with retailers so employees like Burton and Edwardson know about current scams.

"Unfortunately, it happens all too often," said Ed Fritz, BPD crime prevention supervisor.

Fritz says scammers will call people and use fear to get them to buy gift cards -- usually, he says, to pay off a debt.

"They try to scare you about being arrested, threats like that," Fritz said.

Then you are asked to call the scammer back with the gift card information. Once you do that, the scammer can spend the money.

"We always encourage people to verify if you're in that type of situation," Fritz said. "Please, before you act, verify it with someone."

Asking questions is key.

Police say if you're told not to ask questions or tell anyone about what you're doing, something is wrong.

Still, it can be easy to get trapped.

"The people who do it, they're pretty good at what they do," Fritz said.

In the recent case at the Target store, the victim could have been out $30,000 if employees hadn't recognized the red flags.

The victim had planned to go to another retailer as well.

The scammer hasn't been caught, and police warn that there are a lot of them out there.