Police Union Falls Victim to Gift Card Draining Scam – Ellzey & Associates, PLLC Lawsuit Featured on KHOU

HOUSTON — The Houston Police Officers Union says they were scammed after purchasing gift cards from a Houston-area Kroger store.

“It’s frustrating,” said HPOU president Douglas Griffith. “It’s frustrating trying to help other people and found out you have been scammed.” Griffith was doing what he always does to get ready for his monthly membership meeting. “I went to Kroger like I do every month, go in, go to the rack – grab four $100 dollar gift cards,” he said.

Those gift cards were handed out to the union’s officer of the month, investigator of the month and other volunteers. However, after a week, one of them called Griffith saying the gift card didn’t work. “The police union getting scammed by scammers,” he said. “It’s unusual.” Turns out, four $100 VISA gift cards had their balanced drained. That’s what they call it when scammers go into stores, write down the codes on gift cards and wait for the cards to be activated. “When I contacted the store, they said you need to contact the credit card company,” Griffith said. He told KHOU 11 that VISA referred him back to the store.

When we contacted Kroger, a spokeswoman sent us this statement: “Kroger’s Houston Division processes hundreds of gift card transactions daily, and fraud incidents are very rare. With Safety as a core value, we employ multiple strategies to protect our customers – from gift card fixture signage to digital resources with guidance to avoid fraud and common scams, report fraud, and answer frequently asked questions. In addition, Kroger associates are trained in fraud prevention. Customers with questions can contact our Kroger Customer Relations Center at 1-866-544-8062.”

“We think it’s a consumer claim,” said Jarrett Ellzey, the attorney representing the police union. He says stores should be doing more to protect gift cards. “When we go into a grocery store, a Walgreens, or any drug store now, we see the razors are behind in protective glass cabinets, same thing with other products,” Ellzey said.

The cops meantime, find themselves in an unusual spot. “At the end of the day, we are getting scammed and someone needs to be held accountable,” said Griffith. Friday afternoon, there were a lot of developments on the story. The union filed a class action lawsuit claiming Kroger failed to secure the gift cards. A spokeswoman for the store called to tell us they would be giving the union new gifts cards. 

If you’re shopping for a gift card, check the packaging and the seal covering the pin. Some experts suggest pulling one from the back of the stack that’s less likely to have been tampered with. If you do buy a gift card that’s drained, report it to the company on the car and request a refund.

The Federal Trade Commission has more information on how to report a gift card scam here, as well as how to contact gift card companies.

Author: Grace White

Published: 6:53 PM CST February 12, 2024

Updated: 6:53 PM CST February 12, 2024