According to the newest Data Spotlight, 40,000 people reported losing a whopping $148 million in gift cards to scammers during the first nine months of 2021. Those are staggering numbers which have increased each year for the past several years. Since 2018, gift cards have been the most frequently reported payment method for fraud. But which gift card brand do scammers ask people to buy, and lose the most money on? Google Play, Apple, eBay, and Walmart cards remain popular with scammers. But this year, Target gift cards are scammers’ top choice.
Most gift card scams start with a phone call from someone impersonating a branch of the government like the Social Security Administration, or a business. The caller might threaten to freeze your bank account and tell you that you must buy gift cards to avoid arrest or to keep access to your money in your bank account. They will tell you to stay on the phone as you head to the store to buy gift cards to, they often claim, solve the “problem” they are calling about. They will also ask you to provide the numbers on the back of the card you buy. These are all signs of a gift card scam.
If you find yourself heading to the store to buy gift cards because someone on the phone told you so, stop. No matter who calls, texts, or emails you telling you to pay with a gift card, it is always a scammer. The government and legitimate businesses will never call you demanding payment with a gift card.
As we head into the holidays, remember: Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. Report gift card scams to the gift card issuer, and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Visit ftc.gov/giftcards for more information.