Gift cards: Watch out for problems during the holidays
10 ways holiday shopping is different in 2014

Latest gift card trick involves Amazon gift cards

Shopping Online 0041-fullBy Nicole Vincent Fleming, Consumer Education Specialist, Federal Trade Commission

Thinking about giving a fancy new gadget as a holiday gift? Or maybe there’s something on your wish list that Santa forgot to bring?

If so, you might be tempted by an ad for high-tech at a low price. But, if a merchant other than Amazon.com asks you to pay using an Amazon gift card, it’s probably a scam. In fact, Amazon’s gift card terms don’t allow you to use Amazon gift cards to make payments anywhere besides amazon.com and a few specific sites.

Here’s how the scam happens: You discover a website that sells new HDTVs, GPS devices, and other gizmos for deeply discounted prices. You haven’t heard of the site so you do some research. You find a few reviews from satisfied customers, so you go for it.

During checkout, you’re instructed to purchase an Amazon gift card and then hand over the gift card information as payment. Unfortunately, if you do, you’ll be out the money, and you won’t get anything in return.

These scammers know that bad reviews scare people away, so they may post a few positive reviews about the site. They shut down the site before people post complaints — usually in less than a month — and open under a new name somewhere else.

Buying an Amazon gift card to make a payment is not the same as using Amazon Payments, which provides some protections for buyers.

Amazon Payments is a feature that allows Amazon members to pay for merchandise on other websites by logging in and using a payment method they’ve stored on their Amazon account. For example, if you use a credit card stored in your Amazon Payments account, you’re still using your credit card to make the purchase, and you get certain protections when you use a credit card.

You don’t have the same protections when you pay with a gift card — virtually or physically. It could be tough to trace the money or get it back if something goes wrong. Of course, that’s not a problem if you’re sending the gift card to a friend or family member as a gift.

When shopping online, consider using a payment method that offers protections if you don’t get what you paid for. Check out the graphic above for more online shopping tips. Click on the graphic to make it larger for easy reading.

Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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