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Home Blog Attention Parents: Talk to your Kids about Gift Card Scams

Attention Parents: Talk to your Kids about Gift Card Scams

Gift cards are a popular and convenient way to give someone a gift. They’re also a popular way for scammers to steal money from you. That’s because gift cards are like cash: if you buy a gift card and someone uses it, you probably cannot get your money back. Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is ALWAYS a scammer.


Many different kinds of imposters ask you to pay with gift cards. Someone might call you and claim to be from the IRS, collecting back taxes or fines. The caller might say he’s from tech support, asking for money to fix your computer. The caller might even say they are a family member with an emergency and needs money right now. It could be a bad person you friend on Instagram and they trick you into thinking that they want to be your boyfriend or girlfriend. Or through Messenger you receive great news – you’ve won a contest, prize, scholarship, grant, or financial aid.

But they all have in common an urgent need for you to send money right away. Imposters will sometimes ask you to wire money to them but, increasingly, they tell you to go put money on a gift card. Here’s what happens: the caller will often tell you to go buy a popular gift card, frequently iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon. The caller will tell you to get the card at a particular store near you – often Walmart, Target, Walgreens, or CVS. They may even have you buy several cards at several stores. Sometimes, the caller will stay on the phone with you while you go to the store. Once you buy the card, the caller then will demand the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card. Those numbers let them immediately get the money you loaded onto the card. And once they’ve done that, the scammers and your money are gone, usually without a trace.

Other kinds of scammers, some of them also imposters, who might demand payment by gift card include:

  • someone posing as a military service member to get your sympathy, saying he has to sell something quickly before deployment and needs you to pay by gift card.
  • callers who say you’ve won a so-called prize, for a sweepstakes you probably never entered – but first, you have to use a gift card to pay fees or other charges.
  • someone buying something from you, probably online, who sends a check for more than the purchase price – and asks you to give them the difference on a gift card. (That check, by the way, will turn out to be fake.)

These are all scams. In fact, if anyone tells you to pay by gift card, or by wiring money – for any reason – that’s a sure sign of a scam. Every time. Tell your kids to watch for red flags and not to reply to unknown senders, callers, or spam texts. They should never be pressured by anyone to buy gift cards and send them pictures of the back of the card. Don’t give out financial or personal information without hesitation or research. Do you really know who this person is? If anything seems too good to be true, it probably is. Parents, even if you need to repeat yourself, remember that it is always better to be safe than sorry.

What if your kid paid a scammer with a gift card?

If you think they’ve been scammed, have been a victim of fraud, or are wondering if something is legitimate, please contact us at 800-423-1602.

Also, if they paid a scammer with a gift card, tell the company that issued the card right away. When you contact the company, tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Ask them if they can refund the money. If you act quickly enough, the company might be able to get the money back. Lastly, tell the store where they bought the gift card as soon as possible. 

For more information relating to scams and online safety, check out the following resources:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts

https://staysafeonline.org/

Article video and content provided by Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information.

1 comment

  • Jo | Jun 17th 2019 @ 9:37 AM

    If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is to good to be true! Thanks FCB for educating on this very important topic!

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