Here’s One Easy-to-Remember Red Flag That You Might Be Getting Scammed

Gift Cards Jan Mayen Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Jan Mayen on Wikimedia Commons

Gift cards

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Has someone asked you to go get a gift card to pay for something? Lots of people have told the Federal Trade Commission they’ve been asked to pay with gift cards — by a caller claiming to be with the IRS, or tech support, or a so-called family member in need.

If you’ve gotten a call like this, you know that the caller will then demand the gift card numbers and PIN. And, poof, your money is gone.

Scammers are good at convincing people there really is an emergency, so lots of people have made the trip to the Walmart or Target or CVS to buy gift cards to send these callers. And scammers love gift cards — it’s one of their favorite ways to get your money. These cards are like giving cash — and nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately.

So here’s the most important thing for you to know: Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always, always, always a scammer.

Gift Cards Jan Mayen Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Jan Mayen on Wikimedia Commons

Gift cards

Try this gift card buying exercise out at home — especially when anyone asks you to pay with a gift card:

Q: Should I buy an iTunes, Google Play, Steam, Kroger, Walgreens, BestBuy, Amazon, CVS, Rite Aid or ANY OTHER gift card for someone who demands payment? For any reason?

A: NO.

Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. If you’ve bought a gift card and lost money to someone who might be a scammer, tell the company who issued the card. (The contact info might be on the card, but might require some research.) Call or email iTunes or Amazon or whoever it was. Tell them their card was used in a scam.

If you act quickly enough, they might be able to get your money back. But — either way — it’s important that they know what happened to you. And then please tell the FTC about your loss. Your report helps us try to shut the scammers down.


— Jennifer Leach is the assistant director at the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Consumer and Business Education. This article was originally published in the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information blog on May 31.

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