In December, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  reported that in the first nine months of 2021, consumers lost 148 million dollars to scams in which gift cards were used as the payment method.  This amount was more than in all of 2020.   Another troubling statistic is that, according to the FTC, the number of gift card scams and the money lost to these scams has increased every year since 2018.

Scammers are big fans of gift cards because they are easy to purchase, easy to send to the scammer and impossible to trace 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.

In many instances the scams involved scammers posing as large companies or government agencies such as the IRS demanding payments.  It is important to remember that no legitimate company and no government agencies asks for or accepts gift cards as a payment method so anytime you are asked for a payment by gift card, you can be confident it is a scam.

In an interesting development, the FTC noted that Target gift cards were the most popular choice for scammers with scammers asking specifically for Target gift cards in twice as many instances as the next most popular gift card and even when the gift card requested by the scammers was not a Target gift card, the scammers asked their victims to purchase the particular gift cards at a Target store.

TIPS

Although it is impossible to stop payment on a gift card or trace the user after the scammer has used it, if you recognize immediately that you have provided a gift card to a scammer, you can report it to the issuer to cancel the card.  Here is contact information for some popular gift cards.

Amazon

Google Play

iTunes

  • 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.

Target

  • Call Target GiftCard Services at 1 (800) 544-2943

MoneyPak

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