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Scammer alert: Gift cards are for gifts, not payments

Gift Card ScamsAbout 40,000 people reported losing $148 million in gift cards to scammers during the first nine months of 2021, a number that has increased each year for the past several years.

Since 2018, gift cards have been the most frequently reported payment method for fraud, with scammers most frequently asking for Google Play, Apple, eBay, and Walmart cards. However, this year, Target gift cards are scammers’ No. 1 choice.

Most gift card scams start with a phone call from someone impersonating a government agency such as the Social Security Administration, or a business.

The caller may threaten to freeze your bank account and tell you that you need to buy gift cards to avoid arrest or to keep access to your money, said Cristina Miranda, consumer education specialist for the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Consumer and Business Education.

They’ll have you stay on the phone as you go to the store to buy gift cards to, they contend, solve the “problem,” Miranda said. You’ll be asked to provide the numbers on the back of the card you purchase.

If you’re going to a store to buy gift cards because someone on the phone told you to, stop. Anyone who tells you to pay with a gift card, is a scammer. The government and legitimate businesses won’t demand you pay with a gift card.

As the holidays approach, remember: Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. Report gift card scams to the gift card issuer, and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Visit ftc.gov/giftcards for more information on gift card scams.

Comments

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Jennifer

This is one of the worst phone calls I get. It's almost always a senior who is scammed into believing that they owe money for something and that the only way to pay it back is to get a gift card.

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