Gift Card Scams Causing Millions in Losses

October 15—With the holiday season fast approaching, now is a good time to remind citizens of the potential for scams, including scams involving gift cards.

The Federal Trade Commission states, “As soon as someone tells you to pay for it with a gift card, it’s a scam. Gift cards are popular with scammers because they are easy to find and easy to buy. they have the gift card number and PIN, they have your money.”

Scammers may tell different stories to trick you into paying them with gift cards, including: — That it’s urgent and pushes you to act fast so you don’t have time to talk to someone you’re trust. — They’ll tell you which gift card to buy or even send you to a specific store, often Walmart or Walgreens to buy multiple cards. They also encourage you to buy cards from different places, so the cashier doesn’t get suspicious. — The caller asks for the gift card number and PIN.

Some of the common schemes include saying they are from the government, tech support, or pretending a family member is in an emergency to send money immediately but without telling anyone.

What do you do if you’ve already paid a scammer with gift cards? You immediately inform the company that issued the card. Keep the card and any receipts you have. You can report the call to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Report even if you haven’t paid, as this helps law enforcement stop scams. Also report to the state attorney general and if you lost money, get a police report to help the card issuer.

“Scammers will ruin your life. They will manipulate the individual into who and what they are without any regard for your mental, physical and financial well-being. Please beware,” said Lauryn Spray, originally from Woodward.

FTC data shows that in the first nine months of 2021, consumers reported losing $148 million to scams where gift cards were used as a method of payment. This amount is higher than what was reported for the whole of 2020.

Imposter scams rank second in the United States in the top 10 reported theft categories, just below identity theft. In July 2022, there were 2,649 impostor scams and a combined total loss of $25.4 million in Oklahoma.

Woodward Walgreens store manager Casey Moline said: ‘We are limited in what we can do, but we are training staff to ask customers about gift cards. We ask them if they know the person , what the card will be used for and educate them. that iTunes Cards can only be used for Apple products. We have the right to refuse the purchase if we believe the customer is being scammed.

The scammers also pretend to be the IRS and demand immediate payment using a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.

“The IRS will never threaten to immediately bring in local law enforcement to arrest the taxpayer for nonpayment, demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed, or call out of the blue about a tax refund,” officials note.

To learn how to further protect yourself from scammers, please visit https://consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.

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