SCAM ALERT! Be cautious of anyone asking you to pay by gift card.
There has recently been an increase in reports of scammers calling, emailing, or texting unsuspecting individuals demanding payments by gift card. They could be posing as an IRS representative, collecting back taxes or fines; tech support asking for money to fix your computer, or even a family member in an emergency with urgent need for funds. These are just a few examples of the ways scammers can trick you into giving up your hard earned cash.
So how do they get the money you put on the card and why gift cards? Gift cards are like cash. Once you buy a gift card, usually purchased with cash, and someone uses it, you cannot get your money back. Typically the caller or email sender will tell you to go buy a popular gift card, such as iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon which can be purchased at a local retailer like Walmart or Target. Sometimes they will even stay on the phone with you while you purchase the card. Once the card has been purchased they will demand the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card. After you give them this information, they instantly have access to the funds on the card and are gone without a trace. You have very little recourse to get your money back.
Remember gift cards are for gifts, not making payments and legitimate services will not ask you to make payments by gift card or by wiring money to them. The scammers are very convincing and many use scare tactics to get you to comply. Look for the following signs to help avoid these scams:
- An urgent need for money.
- The scammer will often pretend to be from a reputable utility company or IRS and threaten to turn off services, legal fees, or jail time if you don’t comply. Look for threats and scare tactics.
- Oftentimes scammers will tell you you’ve won a prize or sweepstakes but you first have to pay fees or other charges to claim it. Be cautious of “prizes” and keep track of contests you have entered.
- Look for small details. If you’ve received an email claiming to be from a family member or co-worker asking for gift cards, pay attention to how the email is worded, signed, font, etc. If anything is suspicious try to verify their information.
- Don’t get in a hurry and ask lots of questions. Be vigilant with your information.
So what happens if you’ve been a victim of this type of scam? If you paid with a gift card it’s important to tell the company that issued the card right away. If money is still on the card you can ask them for a refund. Be sure to tell them you think the card is involved in a scam. You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Here is a list of cards that scammers often use. More information available on the FTC website.
Call 1 (888) 280-4331
Keep the Amazon card itself and your receipt for the Amazon card.
Learn about Amazon gift card scams, and how to report them here.
Call 1 (866) 305-3229 right away. Say “representative” after the first prompt. Then say “gift card” after the next prompt to connect with a live representative.
Forward suspicious emails about Ebay gift cards you bought to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the first 9 digits of your Ebay gift card.
Keep the Ebay card itself and your receipt for the Ebay card.
Learn about Ebay gift card scams, and how to report them here.
Call 1 (855) 466-4438
Report gift card scams online here.
Keep the Google Play card itself and your receipt for the Google Play card.
Learn about Google Play gift card scams and how to report them here.
Call Apple Support right away at 1 (800) 275-2273. Say “gift card” to connect with a live representative.
Ask if the money is still on the iTunes card. If so, Apple can put a freeze on it. You might be able to get your money back from them.
Keep the iTunes card itself and your receipt for the iTunes card.
Learn about iTunes gift card scams and how to report them here.
If you have a Steam account, you can report gift card scams online here.
Keep the Steam card itself and your receipt for the Steam card.
Learn about Steam gift card scams and how to report them here.
Call 1 (866) 795-7969
Keep the MoneyPak card itself and your receipt for the MoneyPak card.
Learn about MoneyPak gift card scams and how to report them here.