Gift cards are popular holiday presents. Unfortunately, scammers also love them, since they’re more like cash and provide virtually untraceable ways to steal.
Gift card payment scams often begin with a con artist contacting you in the guise of someone else — such as a tech support expert, IRS agent, utility company, or lottery official — claiming you need to pay for a service or you owe a debt. They insist you buy gift cards and read them the serial and personal identification (PIN) numbers on the back to make quick payment. Don’t do it!
Genuine businesses and government agencies will never ask for payment via gift card. Any such request is a sure sign of fraud. The same is true if you get an urgent call that’s supposedly from a grandchild, or if someone you’ve grown close to online suddenly asks for a loan. A request for money via gift card means you’re dealing with a crook, not a loved one.
You also need to watch out for con artists who pose as clergy members and reach out by phone, email, or text. They’ll use sob stories to prey on the faithful, claiming to need money for a worthy cause or a church member in need. Once again, you’ll be asked to buy gift cards and share the numbers on the back.
Remember, the only reason to buy gift cards is to give them to family and friends. They’re not meant for payment.