TARGET buyers have been warned about a $2.5 million gift card scam that defrauded victims within seconds.
The warning comes after three fraudsters were found guilty of money laundering on Tuesday.
Blade Bai, 35, Bowen Hu, 28, and Tairan Shi, 29, all of Los Angeles County, were each found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering after a 10-day trial.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the trio tricked victims into buying Target gift cards over the phone to solve their financial problems.
According to the local CW affiliate, prosecutors estimated that over $2.5 million worth of gift cards were laundered between June 2019 and November 2020 KTLA.
The scam was carried out via both telephone and email.
In both cases, the victims were asked to purchase Target gift cards.
According to KTLA, victims received calls from scammers from abroad posing as law enforcement or government employees.
In some cases, the scammers claimed that a victim’s identity had been stolen – or that a warrant had been issued for their arrest.
Other victims reported receiving emails from a fake technical support account discussing financial issues.
According to authorities, victims were asked to send Target credit cards as payment to resolve the issues.
Victims were often told to purchase the gift cards in $500 increments and read the card numbers and PIN codes over the phone.
After collecting the gift card information, a China-based group called Magic Lamp used the messaging app WeChat to sell more than 5,000 counterfeit gift cards to the three suspects, according to court documents obtained by KTLA.
The three suspects used the same WeChat app to distribute the gift cards to runners in the Los Angeles area who purchased electronics, other gift cards and other merchandise at Target stores.
The sentencing hearing for the three suspects is scheduled for January 26, 2024.
Each faces up to 20 years in prison.