Gift card scams have become an increasing problem. According to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers reported losing $148 million in gift card scams within the first 9 months of 2021.
While the specifics of gift card fraud that are reported to financial institutions and law enforcement officals vary, the scams generally follow a common pattern…
No business, utility company, or government agency will ever insist you pay them with a gift card.
Never give your gift card information. Treat it like cash.
HOW GIFT CARD SCAMS WORK
- connects with a victim by phone, email, through social media, or online.
- may state that they are from a legitimate company, utility, a government agency, or pretend to be someone you know.
- often uses spoofed (fake) phone numbers that can appear legitimate, showing up on caller ID as a familiar number or a government agency name.
- creates a sense of urgency. For example, they offer a great price, say you won a contest, mention a hardship, or state that it’s an emergency. They may even say that your bank account may be frozen or to avoid an arrest. Often, the criminal will say something to invoke fear.
- will ask the victim for payment using gift cards and instructs them to purchase gift cards online or at a nearby store.
- then tells the victim to provide the claim code on the gift cards.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE A VICTIM OF A GIFT CARD SCAM
If you are ever in doubt, hang up on the caller or block them from emailing or texting you. Call the organization directly. Do not call the number that was spoofed on your caller id. Do a little research and find out the company’s actual phone number and email address. Look for their phone number or email address on their website, your paper statements, or their marketing.
If you or someone you know falls victim to a gift card scam, take these actions:
- Find your receipt for the gift card purchases. It will have information about the gift card.
- Contact the retailer that issued the gift card.
- File a police report. The FTC notes doing this may help you get assistance from the gift card issuer.
- Report the fraud to the FTC. Include as much information as you can, including times, dates, phone numbers or email addresses, and screenshots of messages.
- Report the fraud to your state attorney general. Much like reporting fraud to the FTC, your state’s attorney general investigates larger fraud issues rather than resolving individual cases.
- Even if you don’t fall for the scam, take a few minutes to file a report to the FTC and your state attorney general. Doing so could help catch a fraudster and prevent them from victimizing others.
- If you purchased the gift cards with your credit or debit card, contact the card issuer immediately.
- Purchase cards you plan to use yourself or give as presents. Ideally, order online directly from the business or ask the cashier for a card. Cards on store racks can be tampered with.
- Examine any card you are considering buying and ensure there are no signs of tampering.
- If you suspect a scammer, contact the retailer. If money remains on the card, you might be able to get it back.
- Register your card with the retailer if that option is offered.
- Hang up on anyone that contacts you and asks for payment with a gift card or demands money. When in doubt, contact the government agency, company, or utility company through secured means. In essence, through their secured messaging once you log into your account, chat with a rep directly on their site, or call a number that you are familiar with or that is documented on their website, marketing material, or statements.
- If you paid with a credit or debit card, contact your card provider immediately and inform them of the fraud.
- NEVER give someone information from your gift card unless you are actively using it to purchase something directly from a company. For example, you have a Target gift card and you are at Target using your gift card at the register. Government agencies, tech companies, utilities, or other businesses would never ask you to pay with a gift card.
- Don’t respond to an unsolicited email, text message, phone call, or pop-up that offers you something for free, says you won something or is threatening you. Delete it.
- Do not give personal information to anyone in exchange for a gift card.
- Don’t buy gift cards from online auction sites. They could be counterfeit or stolen, according to the FTC.
HOW TO GET HELP
The sooner you act and report scams, the better the chance you’ll have of intercepting any stolen funds. If you think you are being scammed or have sent money to a scammer:
- Stop communicating with the person.
- Notify your financial institution immediately if you sent money or gave someone your banking information. If you need to contact Pearl Hawaii, call us at 808.737.4328 or email MyFamily@phfcu.com.
- Talk to someone you trust (a family member, friends, or clergy).
- Report local in-person romance scams to local law enforcement.
- In most instances of suspected elder abuse and financial exploitation, you should contact Adult Protective Services. You can find information about reaching your local Adult Protective Services office at the Eldercare Locator or by calling 1-800-677-1116.
- Report online scams to FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Report all scams to the Federal Trade Commission
- For cases of identity theft, contact identitytheft.gov.
COMMON GIFT CARDS THAT ARE SCAMMED
and their contact information
According to the Federal Trade Commission, over twice as much money was reported lost on Target gift cards than any other brand in the first nine months of 2021. Google Play gift cards were next, followed by Apple, eBay, and Walmart cards.
Most companies ask that you keep the gift card itself and the receipt for proof of purchase.
GOOGLE PLAY – What to do if you’re a victim of a Google Play gift card scam | CONTACT – Online
STEAM – Steam Wallet Gift Card Scam | CONTACT – Online If you have a Steam account, log in and report the issue. If you do not have a Steam account, scroll to the bottom and click on “I have charges from Steam that I didn’t make” and then click on “Contact Steam Support.”
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- Pearl Wallet | Protect You And Your Cards
- Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Federal Trade Commission
- 10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud
- FTC: Privacy, Identity & Online Security
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Scams Targeting Taxpayers
- Tips for Safe Gift Card Use: Retail Gift Card Association
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- The Department of Justice