Gift Card Scams: How To Spot And Avoid Them

Everyone appreciates receiving gift cards. Who wouldn’t want a gift card to their preferred store or eatery? But we are here to make you aware of the downside of receiving gift cards nowadays. Scammers exploit your love for gift vouchers. They use them to perpetrate fraud. Since it is the holiday season, such scammers are super active so, you should be extra careful. But how can you possibly recognize a gift card scam?

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is a Gift Card Scam?
  • How do Gift Card Scams work?
  • The most frequent sites that suffer from them
  • Tips to avoid!
  • What to do if you have a fake gift card

What is a Gift Card Scam?

Any illegal action or scheme that makes use of a gift voucher to achieve its purpose is a “Gift Card Scam’’. It can be a gift card vendor, fake store, crooked receptionist, or an electronic client. As per the recent Data Analysis by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 40,000 consumers reported losing a total of $148 million on gift vouchers to fraudsters in 2021. These alarming figures have risen year after year for many decades now. And it is time to be aware of such scams and ways to spot and avoid them.

How does a Gift Card Scam work?

There are thousands of methods to make gift card scams work. The perpetrators of these schemes use high-pressure techniques to persuade consumers to hand over gift cards and make their plans work. According to the FTC, the fraudsters usually contact, message or email targets to inform them that they are suffering financial hardship. They may say that you must pay thousands of bucks in speeding fines or you have not yet paid the IRS taxes, etc. They will then insist the victims buy a gift voucher and either offer them an online copy of the gift card or give them the credentials of your gift card. If you do as these scammers say, their scamming scheme works and you lose your hard-earned money.

Another way such scams work is that scammers transform a gift voucher into cash, goods, or smaller specific transactions via a virtually unidentifiable process. For instance, some sophisticated scam schemes use Google Play coupons to establish fraudulent memberships and programs as a means to extort money. So, you should be careful as one mistake can result in you losing millions of dollars.

Now that you know about gift card scams and how most scammers make it work from the previous section, it is time to look into the most popular gift card scams. The best way to not become a victim of such scammers is to be aware of all such scams. So, let us begin.

1.     Apple and iTunes Gift Card Scams

iTunes gift card scams
iTunes gift card scams

Apple/iTunes Gift Card Scams are among the top scams out there. How does it work? A scammer calls someone while pretending to be in an emergency. He tries to convince the person to help him by purchasing an apple or iTunes gift card. If the victim does what the fraudster says, he loses his money and gets scammed. Many people are getting scammed in this way. Because of such scams, Apple has clearly stated that you can only utilize Apple and iTunes Gift Cards to buy Apple products and programs from apple.com, the Apple App Store, iTunes Store, and so on. If someone asks you to use the gift cards for other reasons, you are 100% getting scammed.

Whenever you feel that you got duped into an Apple gift card scam, Contact Apple Help at 1 (800) 275-2273 instantly. To talk to a live operator, say “gift card”. Check to see if the cash in the iTunes account is still available. If the cash is still available, Apple will put restrictions on it.

2.     Amazon Gift Card Hoax

Amazon gift card scams
Amazon gift card scams

The next one is the Amazon Gift Card Hoax. While the intricacies of each scam differ, fraudsters often adopt the same pattern in all gift card scams; they contact the victim through a phone. Then, they make up an emergency and demand money in the form of Amazon gift cards. The fraudster then convinces the target to give them the claim number and then vanishes. Because of this, Amazon has strictly advised its customers to never spend their Gift Vouchers on anything other than Amazon. It also advises to never share gift card details with anyone, no matter what happens. People claiming to be in trouble are usually scammers.

If you get scammed, contact Amazon number 1 (888) 280-4331, and keep everything with you as proof. You can also make a complaint on the Federal Trade Commission website.

3.  eBay Gift Card Scams

eBay Gift Card Scams are not much different from Amazon or Apple gift card scams. The scammer does the same: calls the victim, pretends to be in an emergency, asks for the code on the eBay gift card, and disappears. eBay also advises their clients to never share their gift card numbers. You can use your eBay gift card to shop from eBay only. If you have made the mistake of telling your eBay gift card credentials to someone, contact eBay customer support and keep the gift voucher with you as proof. This way, you can get your money back from the eBay gift card scammer immediately.

4. Google Play Gift Card Scams

Google play gift card scams
Google play gift card scams

Another popular gift card scam is the Google Play Gift Card Scam. Scammers usually act differently in this one. In this fraud, the scammers contact you or drop you an SMS or email, pretending to be in the IRS. The fraudster will claim that you have overdue taxation and will tell you that if you do not clear your dues immediately, the IRS will arrest you. He will ask you to pay your taxes using a Google Play gift card. Once they have the information of your Google Play Gift Card, the scammers will use it for themselves as a means of extorting your money. So, Google Play has mentioned on their website to never use their gift cards for purposes other than to buy from Google services.

If you feel like you are a victim of a Google Play Gift Card Scam, report the scam to Google from your Google account, and they will immediately offer assistance.

5.     Love Frauds

Online love frauds
Online love frauds

Love gift card frauds are among the most popular ones. How does it happen? A fresh dating companion whom you met on an online dating profile requests cash in the form of a gift voucher as a means of support in his/her hard time. If you trust their made-up story, you will end up losing your hard-earned amount as well as your fake love.

6.     The Lottery Frauds

You must have received messages like: “Congrats! You have earned a vacation to the Maldives.” These are scams, and many people fall prey to them. When you receive the message, the scammer asks you to submit the amount through a gift card for the vacation. If you fulfill their requirements, you will neither enjoy that trip nor see the amount you invested in the gift voucher.

How to identify a Gift Card Fraud?

Now that you know the different gift card scams, it is time to learn ways to identify gift card scams. It might be a bit hard to recognize such professional scammers. However, a little concentration can help save your money. Please start taking notes.

  1. Always remember that the IRS would never start interacting with you via telephone, messaging, or email. They will contact the customers via the US postal service. If you receive a call claiming to be the IRS, hang up and block the number immediately.
  2. If you do not remember entering a contest but receive a text message, it is a scam. The scammer will then ask you to pay through a gift card.
  3. Another way to identify a gift card scam is by the operator. If an operator calls and advises you to purchase a specific gift voucher, the chances of you getting scammed are high. If the operator is a scammer, he will tell you to pay on Target, eBay, Google Play, and other gift vouchers. So, take it as a big red flag and hang up the phone call.
  4. A call or text stating an emergency that requires attention is almost usually a scam. If someone asks you for money through a gift card, you should always refuse, or you can lose your money.
  5. We all need to keep in mind is that no reputable company or official institution will ask you to pay through a gift card. If one does not know about this, they will definitely fall prey to such scammers.
  6. One last way to identify a gift card scam is if someone contacts you and asks for your gift card information and password. Take it as an eye-opener. You should never share any kind of sensitive information with anyone because reputable organizations will never ask for such things. It is a quick way to identify a gift card scam.

We agree it is never too easy to identify a gift card scam, but this information will definitely help in identifying and saving yourself from fraud.

Tips to avoid Gift Card Scams

Now, you may have one question in your mind. “Even if I have learned to identify gift scams, is there any way to avoid such scams?” Well, we have got you covered. Your safety is our priority, so we have added the section on tips and tricks to avoid gift card scams. Some superb tips that we found productive are mentioned below:

  • Purchase Gift Cards from Reputable Stores: You should always purchase gift cards online from the official websites of reputable stores. You can directly buy the cards from retailers and other authentic providers. These credentials are not easily accessible to scammers. It is very crucial if you are buying a high-price gift card.
  • Change the Pin: If you accept a gift card as a reward, update the passcode as quickly as possible. Activate the card once you arrive home, reset the passcode, and use the cash immediately. The more a gift card is left unused, the higher are the chances of the scammer stealing the amount. So, this way, you can avoid getting scammed.
  • Keep Record of Your Gift Card Information: Another way to avoid gift scams is to monitor your card information. Databases offer to manage prepayment and electronic cards. However, it is generally a good idea to include an internal safety platform to track your usable gift vouchers. You can also monitor custom parameters to identify suspicious copies with fraud protection software. You can create a number for each card and receive notifications of the cards getting utilized again as well.
  • Report the Phone Number Or Email To The FTC: If you are aware of the ways to identify a gift card scammer, you will not fall prey to the scammers. Whenever you receive a phone call or email claiming to be from the government or organization and they ask for your gift card credentials, hang up and report the number or email to the Federal Trade Commission immediately. This way, you may also save others from getting scammed.

Statistics on Gift Card Frauds

As stated before, the number of gift card scams has risen over the past few years. According to the statistics by FTC, these gift card scams have affected over 40,000 individuals in the first few months of 2021, with the activity topping $51 million-plus 14,000 complaints. The average loss for every case increased from $700 during 2018 to $1,000 in 2021. Furthermore, Gift card frauds that resulted in losses of $5,000 currently account for over 8% of the complaints, indicating that these crooks are growing more reckless. So, be careful in the coming years.

What to do if you got duped in a Gift Card Fraud?

Sometimes the scammer plays smart and even tricks people already aware of such scams. If you get scammed with a gift card, do not panic. You can always report the fraud to a particular company. Another way is reporting your case to the Federal Trade Commission at their official website ReportFraud.ftc.gov. But you need to have proof of your gift card. This way, you will save your money, and the scammer might also get arrested.

Finally…

Gift cards are undoubtedly handy and a considerate thing to give someone. However, they come with a high risk of scams. We want you to be safe. For this reason, we have explained everything you need to know about gift card scams as well as the ways to avoid them. We have also added a small section on what to do if you or someone close to you gets duped in a gift card scam. We hope that you and your family will now be safe from such gift card scams. Good Luck!

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