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:
- Scammers say they’re from the government. They say they’re from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, or even the FTC. They say you have to pay taxes or a fine. But government agencies won’t contact you to demand immediate payment, and they never demand payment by gift card. It’s a scam.
- Scammers say they’re from tech support. They say they’re from Microsoft or Apple and there’s something wrong with your computer. They ask for remote access, and say to pay them to get it fixed. Don’t give them access to your computer. It’s a scam.
- Scammers say they’re a friend or family member with an emergency. If the scammer uses voice cloning, they may even sound just like your loved one. They ask you to send money right away — but not tell anyone. It’s a scam. If you’re worried, contact the friend or relative to check that everything is all right.
- Scammers say you’ve won a prize. But first, they tell you to pay fees or other charges with a gift card. It’s a scam. No honest business or agency will ever make you buy a gift card to pay them for a prize. And did you even enter to win that prize?
- Scammers say they’re from your utility company. They threaten to cut off your service if you don’t pay immediately. But utility companies don’t work that way. It’s a scam.
- Scammers ask for money after they chat you up on a dating website. Romance scammers will make up any story to trick you into buying a gift card to send them money. Slow down. Never send money or gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person — even if they send you money first.
- Scammers send a check for way more than you expected. They tell you to deposit the check and give them the difference on a gift card. Don’t do it. It’s a scam. That check will be fake and you’ll be out all that money.
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 ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Every report makes a difference.