Beware of Gift Card Scams

Education | 09/17/21
Hands typing on a keyboard.

Everyone loves gift cards. It’s like getting money to spend however you please at your favorite retailers or restaurants! Unfortunately, scammers also love them, and for all the wrong reasons.

There are several types of gift card scams out there and here are four major ones to watch out for:

The IRS gift card scam.

A threatening phone call, text message, or email that’s allegedly from the IRS claims you’re at risk of arrest for tax evasion unless you pay up right away. Payment must be made by a gift card. It’s often specifically requested to be an iTunes gift card, because, as you know, the IRS always collects taxes in the form of digital music.

The sweepstakes gift card scam.

You get a call that you’ve won a trip to the Cayman Islands! All you have to do is just pay the processing fee by gift card and pack your luggage. The trouble is, you’ll never see that majestic sunset, but your funds have taken a trip of their own.

The utility gift card scam.

If you don’t pay up with a gift card, the lights just might go out according to the person on the phone. They won’t, but if you fall for the scam, you’ll be out the money you put on the gift card. Generally, utility companies only accept direct forms of payment like cash, check or debit/credit cards.

The balance-check gift card scam.

You purchase a discounted gift card online and the seller sends the card but then asks you to read the numbers over the phone to confirm the balance. If you comply, the seller now has all the information they need to drain the card.

How to spot a gift card scam.

This information can help you recognize a gift card scam:

  • The IRS will never initiate correspondence by phone call, text message, or email.
  • No authentic business or agency will insist on payment by a gift card.
  • If you don’t recall entering sweepstakes, you probably didn’t win it either.
  • A caller or message claiming a matter is urgent is almost always a scam.

In general, gift cards should not be used as payments and the numbers on your gift card should never be shared over the phone or online. Also, it’s best to purchase gift cards through reputable sellers only.

Steps to take if you’ve fallen victim.

First, notify the company that issued the card about the scam. Next, block the scammer’s number from your phone and mark their emails as spam. Finally, alert the FTC about the scam.

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