Many of us love to receive and give gift cards for a variety of reasons — they’re convenient and have practical advantages. Unfortunately, crooks have leveraged our desire to use and share gift cards, creating a new way to commit fraud. These gift cards are the latest tool in their scams.
AARP shares how a crook attempts to swindle their unsuspecting victim:
- You’re directed to buy one or more gift cards — often referred to as “electronic vouchers” — as a quick means of making payment.
- You’re told to share the numbers on the back of the gift cards, by reading them off or sending a picture.
- The request comes from someone you wouldn’t expect to ask for money this way:
- A Social Securitywarning of a problem with your account
- A utility companywarning of an imminent shutoff
- A lottery companypromising a big prize — once you pay some fees upfront
- A grandchild needing bailor facing another financial emergency.
Read the full AARP article here.
Another version of the gift card scam features “Secret Shopping” claims.
Similar to the scam above, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) notes that targeted individuals may get an offer in the mail or email from a familiar company inviting that person to participate in a research project as a secret shopper.
Consider this example shared by the FTC:
People spotted signs of a fake check scam in the bogus Whole Foods secret shopper offer (which was from a scammer, not really Whole Foods). That’s when someone sends you a check and convinces you to deposit it and quickly send them money. In this scam, the recruiter would send shoppers a check for more than $2,000 and they would:
- Cash or deposit the check immediately.
- Buy gift cards with most of the money.
- Keep about $450 as their pay.
- Scratch the coating off the gift cards to show the PIN codes.
- Send pictures of the cards’ front and back (with the codes) to the recruiter.
If anyone ever tells you to deposit a check, withdraw money, and send it to someone, that’s a scam. When the check later turns out to be fake, the bank will want the money back. And if anyone tells you to go buy gift cards and share the PIN numbers, that’s a scam, too. Once the scammer has the PIN, they also have all the money from the cards.
Note that scammers often pressure their victims to act fast without thinking. Unfortunately, as the unsuspecting person follows through with the process, the fraudster takes the funds off the gift cards before the bad check provided is returned — and you’re stuck.
Read the full FTC article here.
Report anything unusual.
If you believe you’ve become a victim of fraud, please contact us. We also encourage you to contact your local police department or the FTC at www.FTC.gov/complaint.