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Police badge on computer keyboard

State police cautioned area residents against falling for a scam operation that involves purchasing gift cards, providing the validation number and then revealing critical computer information to strangers.

At least six Indiana County residents reported being hoodwinked by the ruse in the past week, according to state police at Indiana. They were taken for several hundred dollars to as much as $7,000.

Culprits advised the victims to purchase gift cards to obtain products and services such as Google Play and then provide the gift card number and PIN to the scam artist.

Another victim told police of responding to an email message asking for verification of a Bitcoin digital currency transaction and being told to provide the Internet Protocol (IP) address of his computer, allowing the culprit to access the victim’s personal banking information from his computer.

Police said the victims ranged from 60 to 80 years of age.

“Discuss common scams with your family members and verify the legitimacy of suspicious phone calls, emails and text messages,” said Trooper Cliff Greenfield, a community relations officer at the state police station in Indiana. “When in doubt, ignore the suspicious phone call, email or text message and contact a family member or your local law enforcement agency.”

Police advised area residents to visit the U.S. Federal Trade Commission website for advice and warnings about current online scam operations.