Everyone loves gift cards. Unfortunately, scammers also love them, and for all the wrong reasons. Here’s what you need to know about gift card scams.
How the scams play out
There are several types of gift card scams:
- The IRS gift card scam. A threatening message that’s allegedly from the IRS claims you’re at risk of arrest for tax evasion unless you pay up pronto! 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’ve won a trip to the Cayman Islands! Just pay the processing fee by gift card. You’ll never see that majestic sunset, but your money’s ridden off.
- The utility gift card scam. If you don’t pay up with a gift card, the lights just might go out. They won’t, but if you fall for the scam, you’ll be out the money you put on the gift card.
- 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 gift card.
- If you don’t recall entering a 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.