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Protect Yourself From Gift Card Scams With These Essential Tips

Gift card scams are a common technique fraudsters use to deceive you and steal your hard-earned money! Providing the numbers on the back of a card to any unknown individual is a scam. Once a gift card’s information is given out to a scammer there is no guarantee to recover the funds as they will try to use those funds immediately. Once the funds are gone it is all but impossible to recover. 

Legitimate businesses and government agencies will never mandate the purchase of gift cards or the use of gift cards as a means of payment. We recommend always retaining a copy of your gift card and the receipt to use as evidence when reporting any fraudulent activity to the gift card company and/or law enforcement. You may request a refund and assistance through the gift card provider.  To prevent future scams, never give out any personal information to someone you cannot trust.

Scammers’ Approach and Tone

One tactic scammers use to steal your information and gift card numbers is an urgent and crisis-demanding tone. They may threaten you by saying that law enforcement will be coming to arrest you if you do not provide account or gift card information. Anyone who intentionally invokes fear by suggesting that there is an emergency or tells you that something terrible will happen is a fraudster. They may even offer you a discount on what you “owe” if you pay them immediately using a gift card. Never give them any information.

Some individuals may cleverly instruct you where exactly you can purchase a gift card for them, like Walmart, Target, CVS, Drug Mart, or Meijer, and suggest you add your payment to one of them as an “easier” alternative. Any way they can bypass suspicion from a retailer and yourself—is a scam.

If you receive contact over the phone, by email, social media, or another online method from someone asking for confidential card information that may not be a legitimate source, do not respond. Always take preventative caution when discussing personal identification and information with an unknown subject online and by phone, as it could be a fraudulent attempt to steal your money.

Posing and False Identities

Scammers may pose as trusted sources or other known individuals to entice you to hand over personal card information since you recognize their names. They may claim to be from the government, technical support, utility companies, coworkers and bosses, family members, mutual friends, or other familiar relationships. They may request payment for an overdue bill or say you owe fees for a service you do not recognize. If legitimate, these individuals will never request payment by gift card. Do not pay them anything. You may receive a message from what appears to be a family member requesting payment for a mutual relative’s birthday gift; if it does not match their known contact information or seems surprising, do not respond.

Scammers may use multiple tactics at once and resort to voice cloning, where they can strategically replicate the voice of a known individual. Their goal is to pressure you into sending money immediately while demanding that you keep the transaction secret.  Be cautious even if it appears they are calling from a known phone number as scammers have been known to spoof legitimate numbers to lower suspicion.  Hang up and call them by entering their number manually. Obtain phone numbers by referring to your billing statements or account documentation for any company you have dealings with.    

Let’s say you have just received a call claiming that you won a prize but you must pay fees or necessary charges before you can accept; what do you do? First, ask yourself: did you enter this sweepstakes? Do you recognize the caller and their affiliation? Most importantly, why must you pay fees? All of these are reasonable considerations to make and could be a red flag that this could be a scam. If you meet someone online who claims to be romantically interested in you but asks for money before meeting in person, is continually unable or refuses to meet you in person, or refuses to talk on the phone, this could be a scammer. Even if they send you money first, slow down—this is a scammer trying to steal your money and information.

Common Scam Attempts

Do not purchase gift cards that look like they have been tampered with or that appear to have been opened and re-sealed. Some scammers will steal unloaded gift cards from stores, they will then alter the cards, record the card data, and return them to the store displays.  A sign the card may have been altered is if the silver sticker on the back, covering the PIN number, is crooked or appears to be damaged.  Once the card is activated, the scammers can undetectably steal the funds.

In other cases, fraudsters may place their own barcodes on the back of the gift card, rendering any money you load on the card to be transferred directly to the scammer’s possession. If purchases attempted with your newly acquired gift card are declined, this may be an indication that the card was tampered with. 

If a fraudster attempts to blackmail you to purchase gift cards or send them information or money, report the scam immediately and do not respond to their requests. Any ransom or price they propose in exchange for suppressing the confidential information they “have” is a fraudulent scheme you should avoid pursuing.

While legitimate gift card resale websites exist online, some scammers may appear on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or an unofficial site with discounted gift cards to scam you into purchasing stale, fake, or stolen cards. If a sale appears too good to be true, it probably is.

Similarly, you may discover discounted product listings for concerts or event tickets, a rental property, and generally more costly items that generate a sense of urgency to purchase. Requesting you pay with a branded gift card and provide your numbers to the seller via email or phone is a likely scam to steal you out of your money. 

Protect your sensitive information, and do not share your financial details or identification with anyone. If you feel unsure about recent experiences or transactions relating to gift cards, don’t hesitate to contact LorMet’s Member Service Support at (440) 960-6600.

Additional Resources on Gift Card Scams
Read More on FTC.gov

Category: Security
Last Updated: May 07, 2024