Gift / Prepaid / Reward Cards
There are several traps that target people selling gift cards.
- In one scam, fraudsters pay you for a card (or the code on the card), but then dispute or cancel the charge after they have already used the gift card.
- In another, they ask you to buy a bunch of gift cards in exchange for an item on an auction site—and then never actually send you the purchase.
To avoid becoming a victim, take several precautions when you use gift card websites.
- Check reviews of any website you use.
- Always review gift card balances before and after purchasing the card.
- If you are selling a gift card, don’t ever give out the card’s PIN until your payment transaction is complete.
- Be wary of auction sites selling gift cards at a discount or in bulk.
- If you are buying a gift card in a store, examine the protective scratch-off area on the back of the card for evidence of tampering.
- Beware of social media postings offering vouchers or gift cards: Fraudulent messages can sometimes appear to have been shared by a friend when they really come from a scam artist.
Gift Card Phone Scam
A fraudster claims to be with a federal or state agency and is calling about a fake debt. The callers tries to pressure you for payment through a prepaid gift card and may threaten you with punishment if you do not comply. Keep in mind that government agencies will never ask for payment via a reloadable gift card.
Protect yourself against gift card phone scams:
- If you field a call from someone insisting he or she is a government official, but the individual demands payment through a gift card, hang up.
- Do not read or text the PIN number on the back of a gift card to anyone as scammers can use the number like they can use cash.
- Reputable businesses don’t rely on gift cards for payment.
Protect yourself from gift card fraud:
- Don't buy gift cards displayed prominently within the store. Ask
sales clerks to sell you cards from the back room or behind the customer
- Examine cards and packaging for signs of tampering. Don't buy a
card where the coating covering the PIN number has been scratched away or
the activation sticker isn't firmly affixed.
- Spend the gift card as soon as possible. Don't put the card in a
drawer for months. The longer consumers take to spend their gift cards, the
more time thieves have to do it for them.
- Beware of online exchanges and auction sites. Online buy cards
from reputable online exchanges or auction sites because of the possibility
of buying stolen cards.
If you purchase gift cards to give as gifts, ensure they come from a reputable and trusted source.
Consider gift cards the same as cash and secure them like you would your wallet.
Types of crimes:
- Fraudsters can purchase prepaid cards with stolen credit card information. Most prepaid card providers have established law enforcement escalation numbers, that can be reached by calling the phone number listed on the back of the prepaid card and requesting the law enforcement or fraud/risk hotline.
- Another type of fraud occurs if you receive a credit, debit or prepaid card in the mail (other than a renewal of an existing card) which you did not request or apply for the specific card. This can indicate that you may be a victim of identity theft fraud.