Scammers are big fans of gift cards because they are easy to purchase, easy to send to the scammer and impossible to trace back to the scammer. It is not even necessary for the scammer to be in possession of the actual gift card to use it. Sending the gift card numbers or taking a picture on your phone and transmitting it to the scammer is sufficient for the scammer to use the gift card to buy things that can then be sold and converted into cash. Recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a new report that indicated that since 2018, consumers have been scammed out of almost 245 million dollars through gift card related scams. Scammers require their victims to pay them using gift cards in a wide variety of scams including impostor scams where the scammers pose as the IRS and demand payment through a gift card and when scammers pose as businesses requiring a payment by gift card in order to get a special promotional price for some service.
Fortunately, scams requiring payment through gift cards are easy to avoid. Anytime anyone approaches you with a business transaction in which you are asked to pay through gift cards, you can be confident that it is a scam. The IRS has even had to post on its website that it does not accept gift cards as payments. An important thing to remember is that gift cards are gifts, they are not used as a payment method for any legitimate transaction so if you are asked to pay for any business transaction through a gift card, you can be sure it is a scam. Another common gift card scam involves an email you receive from a friend asking you to buy gift cards to use as a gift for a relative of your friend. For various reasons your friend is not able personally to purchase the gift cards. You should always be skeptical if you get such an email because the truth is that it most likely indicates that your friend’s email account was hacked and being used to scam the people on their contact list. This is always a scam so you can safely ignore the email, however, you should notify your real friend that their email account was hacked so they can take the necessary steps to secure their email account.
It would be helpful if more companies that sell gift cards would routinely train their employees to recognize scams and require them to ask their customers when larger gift cards are being purchased as to the reason for purchasing the gift cards. The FTC has recently created new posters for retailers to put up near where they sell gift cards to warn consumers about gift card related scams.
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