Gift Card Scams 101: The Basics to Stay Protected
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Normally I am focused on gift card strategy for retailers and helping them mitigate fraud. But more and more my inbox is full of alerts about new gift card scams. So we at K+H Connection are dedicating the next 3 blog posts to helping consumers protect themselves from fraud.
In this blog, we are going to cover:
what types of scams are going on
what to do if you are targeted
how you can help make sure others are protected
To show you just how common gift card scams truly are, I've compiled a list of the 10 latest articles I have read about gift card scams across the u.s. you will notice that these stories are all very recent:
More people report Social Security imposter calls than any other type of government scam
Don't Fall For It: Alert Issued For Phone Scam Targeting Long Islanders
State police: Caller talked woman into buying around $12K in Target gift cards
Updated: additional stories that have developed in the days between the time of writing and posting
So let's start with how they are contacting you. This can be through phone, email or text message.
Example via text message:
Text message attempts can be highly sophisticated. Even someone on our own team was targeted back in April (you can see the full conversation in a prior blog post about that here).
What was incredible about this fraud attempt was that the scammer knew my co-founder, Kristen’s name and phone number. They also knew our team member, Erika’s name and phone number.
In this fraud attempt they pretended to be Kristen asking Erika to go and purchase gift cards and then send them a picture of the back with the serial number and the security code exposed. The number looked very similar to Kristen’s- all the scammer did was flip 2 numbers in her phone number when she or he masked the text to send to Erika. Had Erika sent that information to the scammers, they would have successfully received several hundred dollars in gift cards and then immediately gone online to resell the gift cards for cash.
Example via phone:
I myself have received calls from people pretending to be the IRS, claiming I have taxes that are overdue or fees I owe to the government. They will say I am to call back at a certain number or I am to send payment in the form of gift cards to a certain number.
It is important to note that the government will never ever ask you to pay for anything in gift cards.
Another scam that we are seeing is someone calling and claiming to be in jail and that their bail has been set and it needs to be paid in gift cards. Once again, no judge will ever allow anyone's bail to be paid in the form of gift cards.
Example via email:
The latest group to be targeted are Church communities. People are emailing pretending to be members of a congregation and asking for you to once again go and buy gift cards and then email them the serial number and the pin or code that's on the back of the gift card.
Once again, never send a gift card serial number and pin to anyone AND do not forward digital gift cards on to anyone that solicits you. if someone calls from your church follow up with the number that you personally know for the church.
Who is being targeted? Everyone.
But the biggest cohort that is being preyed upon is the elderly. Phone calls are being made to this particular group using the names of family members etc to get these people to do this exact same thing where they buy gift cards to help someone in need or to get someone out of trouble.
What should you do if you get one of these emails phone calls or text messages? Your should report it as soon as possible.
Start with your local police department, they can also point you in the right direction if you need to report it to other agencies. It is also helpful to spread the word to your community that this is going on. The more people that know about the scams, the less victims there will be. Often, people who become victims of these type of scams feel embarrassed but these fraudsters are tricky and highly savvy. It is not your fault if you have fallen victim to a gift card scam; your experience can help protect and educate others.
If you think you fell prey to one of these scammers call your local police department.
It is hard to catch these scammers. They have technology in place so they can change or mask their phone numbers and mask their IP addresses and locations very easily. It makes it really hard to figure out where in the world these scammers are and what this money is funding.