Hang up on Gift Card Scams
Someone might ask you to pay for something by putting money on a gift card, like a Google Play or iTunes card, and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card. If they ask you to do this, they’re trying to scam you. No real business or government agency will ever insist you pay them with a gift card. Anyone who demands to be paid with a gift card is a scammer. Read on to learn more about gift card scams.
If someone calls you and demands that you pay them with gift cards, you can bet that a scammer is behind that call. Once they have the gift card number and the PIN, they have your money. Scammers may tell you many stories to get you to pay them with gift cards, but this is what usually happens:
- The caller says it’s urgent. The scammer says you have to pay right away or something terrible will happen. But you don’t, and it won’t.
- The caller usually tells you which gift card to buy. They might say to put money on an eBay, Google Play, Target, or iTunes gift card. They might send you to a specific store — often Walmart, Target, CVS, or Walgreens. Sometimes they say to buy cards at several stores, so cashiers won’t get suspicious. And, the caller might stay on the phone with you while you go to the store and load money onto the card. These are all signs of a scam.
- The caller asks you for the gift card number and PIN. The card number and PIN on the back of the card let the scammer get the money you loaded onto the card. And the scammer gets it right away.
How Scammers Convince You to Pay With Gift Cards
Scammers pretend to be someone they’re not to convince you to pay with gift cards. They want to scare or pressure you into acting quickly, so you don’t have time to think or talk to someone you trust. Here’s a list of common gift card scams and schemes:
- The caller says they’re from the government — maybe the IRS or the Social Security Administration. They say you have to pay taxes or a fine, but it’s a scam.
- Someone calls from tech support, maybe saying they’re from Apple or Microsoft, saying there’s something wrong with your computer. But it’s a lie.
- You meet someone special on a dating website, but then he needs money and asks you to help him. This romance scammer makes up any story to trick you into sending him gift cards.
- The scammer pretends to be a friend or family member in an emergency and asks you to send money right away — but not tell anyone. This is a scam. If you’re worried, hang up and call your friend or relative to check that everything is all right.
- Someone says you’ve won a prize but first, you have to pay fees or other charges with a gift card. Remember: no honest business or agency will ever make you pay with a gift card. But also — did you even enter that sweepstakes?
- The caller says she’s from your power company, or another utility company. She threatens to cut off your service if you don’t pay immediately. But utility companies don’t work that way. It’s a scam.
- You get a check from someone for way more than you expected. They tell you to deposit the check, then give them the difference on a gift card. But that check will be fake and you’ll be out all that money.
Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. But they’re popular with scammers because they’re easy for people to find and buy, and they have fewer protections for buyers compared to some other payment options. If you paid a scammer with a gift card, tell the company that issued the card right away.
Credit: Federal Trade Commission