CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A Powhatan woman is praising Kroger employees in Chesterfield for preventing her from becoming a victim of a scam.
Denise McKendry almost dropped a grand on Google Play cards to pay off money a scammer told her she owed to the IRS.
She said it all started with several automated voicemails from a phone number with a New York area code.
“If you don’t return the call, you will have to face the legal consequences,” the voicemail said.
McKendry called the number back Feb. 25 and was connected with a man who claimed to work for the IRS.
"He had an identification number, he had a case number and he began talking fast about how I owed $5,207 from tax years 2014-18,” McKendry said. “He further told me that I have a judgement against me and a criminal charge against me on three counts.”
McKendry noted his tone and aggressive manner on the phone, which left her confused and frightened.
“They’re very good at what they do," she said.
Despite her gut feeling that something was off, McKendry said she was transferred to another man who told her to go to a store on their list and purchase two $500 Google Play cards.
McKendry drove to the Kroger near Route 288, all while keeping the man on the phone.
“When I pulled in the parking lot of Kroger, he instructed me to turn off speaker phone and find the gift card/prepaid card center,” McKendry said. “He further said I am not to speak to anyone in the store about what I’m doing. That he didn’t want any ‘third party interference’ or ‘no trouble.'”
McKendry was told to buy the two $500 Google Play cards at the self-checkout.
“As I was walking over to it, my uneasy feeling became stronger,” she said. “I said to him this seems really fishy to me to pay off an IRS debt using Google Play cards. I suggested I go to my bank and get a certified check; he responded with, 'No check. The IRS, police department and Google are working together in cooperation to settle delinquent tax accounts.”
When she had difficulty at the self-checkout lane, she went to a cashier where her debit card was then not approved. So she headed to the customer service desk.
"I just feel like there was divine intervention all over the place," McKendry said.
It was there that an employee asked her if she knew where the cards were being sent.
"I thought how odd of him to ask me that,” McKendry said. “At first I smiled and said I did, and then I just mouthed ‘please help me’ and I showed him my phone."
“When it comes to the point of protecting our customers, sometimes you have to ask the tough question,” said Kroger Store Leader Tim Day said.
Day was called over and immediately told her to hang up the phone.
A few minutes later, McKendry got another call. Her caller ID showed coming from the Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office, but in reality it was the same scammer.
“When I answered the phone, they hung up,” Day said.
Day himself called the Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office to speak with someone about the incident.
McKendry has since blocked several suspicious phone numbers and urges others to be aware of phone calls like these.
“It was very gratifying to see that we solved an issue relatively within minutes,” Day said.
“This gentleman and this team were so astute and diligent, and I just breathed a breath of fresh air,” McKendry said. “I feel like they saved my life."
Day added the main takeaway is if you don’t know where the money is going, it’s more than likely a scam.
“It makes our training really worthwhile when you see this,” he said. “Many times we have a lot of our customers that potentially could be victimized by this and it’s so frustrating. You can just see the panic in her eyes.”