Overland Park grandmother says classified ad led to identity theft

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- It's being called a scam against the elderly.

An Overland Park grandmother has a large credit card bill in hand, and she said she didn't ring up the charges.

Marcella Bugni, 72, said scammers used a classified advertisement she'd placed in the Kansas City Star to con her into sharing her account numbers.

Bugni said if she can be scammed, anyone else can be too. She said she placed a classified ad in the newspaper this week to sell a pet dog, and after the ad ran, scammers called her pretending to be Star employees. She said the man on the phone asked for her credit card numbers, and then, ran up a big bill.

"I didn't know the world was that bitter," Bugni said, saying she was caught completely off-guard. The imposter on the phone said he was calling to get her credit card number to pay for her ad.

"So I gave him my Master Card number, and when I did, there was a click on the phone," Bugni said. "And I thought, 'Uh-oh. I've been scammed.'"

In fact, Bugni said she gave them two card numbers, and before she could call to cancel them, the damage was done.

"Within 20 minutes, they'd done $400 damage to my Master Card," Bugni said. She has the bill to prove it. Scammers used her credit card numbers to purchase cell phone minutes for a prison inmate.

"I was scammed, and I'm embarrassed, but I did it," Bugni said.

Derek Donovan with the Kansas City Star said this is a common occurrence.

"Unfortunately, what's happened is a common scam called 'phishing.'

Donovan works for the Star as a public editor, a link between readers and the newspaper staff. He said classified ad salespeople warn customers about the dangers they face, when criminals see their ads in the paper. His advice is to take precautions.

"If you're unsure about that in any way -- your caller ID, for example, doesn't pick up that it's a star number from a 2-3-4, tell them you'll call them back," Donovan said.

"If it happened to me, it will happen to you," Bugni said. "Let me tell you."

Donovan said he and the Star staff wish more could be done to protect the public from crimes like this one. Bugni said she's sharing her story with us in hopes no one else will make the same mistakes.

Click here to see Sean McDowell's FOX 4 Facebook page.

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