Have you ever been asked to make a payment using a gift card? If so, consider that request to be an immediate red flag.
While gift cards can be a popular and convenient way to give a gift, they’re the leading payment method requested for in most consumer scams.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported consumers across the country lost $79.9 million in gift card scams in the first three quarters of 2020 alone. Bad actors focus on requesting gift cards from a variety of merchants to ensure consumers do not notice a pattern. Gift cards from Amazon, PayPal, Green Dot, eBay, Google Play, Best Buy, Home Depot and even iTunes are known to be requested by scammers, but consumers should be on high alert regardless of the merchant name.
Each gift card is like digital cash: they are anonymous and basically untraceable with no permanently linked account information that could tie it to any one person. This allows scammers to get creative with these schemes.
Regardless of the type of gift card scam, they always have one thing in common: a sense of urgency. Bad actors will demand that you go to the store – or even multiple stores – right away to obtain gift cards. These scammers may even stay on the phone with you the entire time. Victims of these scams are usually told to provide the gift card numbers and corresponding pin numbers via phone. Once that happens, the thieves are able to get the money loaded onto the card and most of the time, the funds cannot be traced back.
The Consumer Protection Team within the Michigan Department of Attorney General has received a number of complaints related to the following gift card scams. They can sound very convincing, but it’s important to never provide your personal information or provide payment to anyone via these methods:
Once money is loaded onto a gift card and the numbers are provided to the requestor, these transactions cannot be reversed.
Always remember: Anyone who demands payment by gift card is a scammer, period. No reputable company or government agency will ever demand payment via gift card.
The FTC recommends that if you paid a scammer with a gift card, do the following:
The FTC also provides a list of common merchants used for these types of scams. The list is updated periodically. If you fell victim to a gift card scam and the merchant is not listed on the list below, search for contact information on the card itself, or search for their actual website.
Green Dot MoneyPak
To report fraud or if you have a general consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection team at:Consumer Protection