Avoiding and Reporting Gift Card Scams

Only scammers will tell you to buy a gift card and give them the numbers off the back of the card. No matter what they say, that’s a scam.  Read more on how to protect against this increasingly popular scam.

How Gift Card Scams Work

Gift card scams start with a call, text, email, or social media message. Scammers will say almost anything to get you to buy gift cards — like Google Play, Apple, or Amazon cards — and hand over the card number and PIN codes. Here are some common tactics scammers use in gift card scams:

Scammers will say it’s urgent. They will say to pay them right away or something terrible will happen. They don’t want you to have time to think about what they’re saying or talk to someone you trust. Slow down. Don’t pay. It’s a scam.

Scammers will tell you which gift card to buy (and where). They might say to put money on an eBay, Google Play, Target, or Apple gift card. They might send you to a specific store — often Walmart, Target, CVS, or Walgreens. Sometimes they’ll tell you to buy cards at several stores, so cashiers won’t get suspicious. The scammer also might stay on the phone with you while you go to the store and load money onto the card. If this happens to you, hang up. It’s a scam. Scammers will ask you for the gift card number and PIN. The card number and PIN on the back of the card let the scammer get the money you loaded onto the card — even if you still have the card itself. Slow down. Don’t give them those numbers or send them a photo

Common Gift Card Scams

Scammers tell different stories to get you to buy gift cards so they can steal your money. Here are some common gift card scams:

What To Do If You Gave a Gift Card to a Scammer

If you bought a gift card and gave someone the numbers off the back of the card, that’s a scam. Use your gift card and gift card store receipt for these next steps:

Report the gift card scam to the gift card company right away. No matter how long ago the scam happened, report it.

Ask for your money back. Some companies are helping stop gift card scams and might give your money back. It’s worth asking.

Tell the FTC at Every report makes a difference.


Get the latest news delivered to your inbox.