As the holiday season gets into full swing, so will the number of common gift card scams. They are apt to be even more common this year than they were last year. More people will become victims to it. The following information will help you avoid gift card scams.
Scammers Love Gift Cards
While the government has taken some measures to help prevent scams on things such as wire transfers, there has been little done to prevent fraud using gift cards. Scammers and criminals love them. This is because they are nearly untraceable and there are so many ways for them to take advantage of them.
Some Common Scams
1. You will receive a phone call from a supposed government agency – possibly the IRS.
They will claim that you owe taxes and need to make a payment right away to avoid arrest (or a similar problem). To make the payment, you will be instructed to pay via gift card. You would buy a gift card and then give them the numbers.
You need to be aware that scammers can make a caller ID look like it is a genuine IRS call. It is not. The IRS and other government agencies do not call or email – they send letters. Also, they will never ask you to send a gift card.
2. The Arrest or Kidnapping Story
You may receive a phone call saying that a family member or relative has gotten in trouble and needs bail money, ransom money, or other urgent need for it. A scammer will always say it is urgent – or else. Some scammers will even demand that you stay on the phone while you go to the store to buy the cards. They also will ask you to purchase a gift card (or more than one) for payment. When this happens, simply hang up and call that person named immediately.
3. Payments to Authority Sites
Another scam is for you to get a call from some authority site – such as Social Security, tech support for supposed virus infection, etc. The same thing happens – the demands on the other end – which may also be supported by emails, are for you to buy a gift card of a certain amount to remedy the problem.
What you need to know is that no official site will ever ask you to pay via gift cards. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission says that “anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer.” The reason for this is simple. After a gift card is purchased, the buyer can have it canceled. This leads to a chargeback to the seller of the card.
4. Scams Offering a Prize
Other callers may take a different approach. They may say that you won a prize (for a contest you knew nothing about and never entered) and they want you to send a gift card to cover the fees. Someone else may pay for something you are selling online and send you a check for more than it costs. They will then want you to send the difference on a gift card – of course, the check bounces and you are out the money you sent.
Whenever a gift card is demanded and you suspect a scam, report it immediately to the authorities. You also want to report it to the company that sold you the card – but keep in mind that it is not likely that you will recover your money.