The holiday season brings the blessings of gift-giving, good cheer and time with family and friends, but it also brings opportunities for fraudsters to spoil your celebrations. Read below on the five most common gift card scam scenarios to avoid.
IRS and Government Impostors
In this set-up, a scammer will call claiming to be the IRS, police or another form of official government authority and will claim you owe money for back taxes or other legal fees. If the caller threatens you with arrest or legal action in an effort to scare and bully you into purchasing gift cards to resolve any issues, it’s a scam. Government entities will never require payment with gift cards to resolve tax or other legal situations.
Tech Support Scams
You may get an email from a computer software company or a tech support scammer wanting to help protect you from harmful viruses or fix a program you use. When you call to inquire about their services, they often state that your computer has been comprised along with your credit cards, and ask you to pay for tech support services upfront and in the form of a gift card.
Phony Family Emergencies
A caller will contact you claiming to be a representative–such as a lawyer–for a family member in trouble and needs to be paid for their services in the form of gift cards to resolve the “emergency situation”. The caller will likely try to deter you from contacting the family member or claim the family member cannot come to the phone because they are incarcerated.
Too Good to be True Discounted Services
A scammer may try to tempt you with a great deal or offer a large discount if you pay with a gift card instead of paying with a credit/debit card. They may claim there are issues with a credit/debit card payment you recently made so you must pay with a gift card instead.
Phishy Email Requests
You may have received an email from a sender whose name and email address look like a family member, friend, or colleague, but is actually a sophisticated phishing scam disguised as a trustworthy request. The scammer will ask you to perform a “task” or a “favor” by purchasing gift cards and responding to the email with the gift card redemption codes.
If you or a family member has experienced a scam, immediately report it to your local police department’s financial crimes department. You can also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission, and directly to the gift card issuer. Click here to view the Federal Trade Commission’s article on what to do if you paid a scammer with a gift card.