Be on the Lookout for Gift Card Scams

Fraudsters have gotten more creative at coming up with ways to get paid. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2022 nearly 65,000 consumers were scammed out of more than $228 million in gift card scams. Our goal is to provide you with the education and tools to keep you from falling victim. Below are some examples of different scams involving gift cards.

  • Government Scam: You receive a message from someone claiming to be from the government (IRS, Social Security Administration or even the FTC) saying you owe taxes or have to pay a fine. Government agencies won’t demand immediate payment and they would never accept it in the form of a gift card.
  • Prize Winning Scam: You get a message from someone claiming you’ve “won a prize”. In order to get your prize they request that you pay fees or other charges with a gift card.
  • Utility Company Scam: Someone claiming to be from a utility company contacts you and threatens to shut off your service. It’s important to know that utility companies do not work that way.
  • Online Dating Scam: An individual you met through a dating app or online romance site tells you a story in an attempt to trick you into buying a gift card. Even if you receive money from them first, you should never send money or gifts to anyone you never met in person.
  • Check Scam: Someone offers to send you a check for more than you expect and assk you to deposit the check, giving them the difference on a gift card. The check is fraudulent and you will be out all the money.

The above scenarios all have one common request; to purchase gift cards as a means of payment, account settlement or financial help. You should be on high alert anytime you are asked to purchase a gift card as a means of payment. Gift cards are a popular choice for scammers because they are easy to purchase, nearly impossible to trace or refund and can be treated as cash.

These scams start with a call, text, email or social media message. Scammers will use a sense of urgency in their requests and often times will impersonate friends or family members. They will ask for payment right away or something terrible will happen. They will tell you which gift card(s) to buy and where to get them. Some scammers will ask you to buy cards at several stores so cashiers won’t get suspicious. Then they will ask you for the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card. If you provide that information, the scammer has all they need, even if they don’t have the physical card. Never send those numbers or a photo of the card.

Bottom line is if you are told to pay with a gift card, it’s a scam! Legitimate companies will NEVER demand gift cards as a form of payment. Always be on guard. If you’ve been a target or have questions about gift card scams call us at 717.436.2144.

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