Five common gift card scams: how to avoid getting scammed
Gift cards are a very popular and convenient way to give gifts to friends and family this holiday season, but they can also be a target for scammers looking to steal your money or personal information. How scammers try to deceive you and how to avoid it, the publication told Fox News.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), 50% more people reported gift card scams this year than last year.
So, what clever tricks do scammers use to trick you? How can you recognize their terrible tricks and avoid them? Here are the five most common gift card scams.
1. The Gift Card Display Trick
One of the latest gift card tricks involves counterfeit gift cards on racks in retail stores. Fraudsters write the activation code on the card or place a barcode sticker over the real barcode, allowing them to secretly load money onto their own card immediately after purchasing the gift card. This means that when you or your recipient tries to use the gift card, it will be blank or invalid.
How to avoid this scam
Check the gift card packaging before purchasing it. Look for signs of counterfeiting, such as torn or sealed packaging or stickers placed on the barcode or card number. Also, choose a card from the back of the rack, as scammers often place their counterfeit cards in the front.
2. Gift card trick
Another common trick by gift card scammers is that they pretend to be someone you know or trust, such as a family member, partner, company or government. Scammers will contact you by phone, SMS, email or social media and make up a fake story or emergency that requires you to send them money urgently.
They will ask you to buy a gift card or multiple gift cards and then send them a photo of the card or the numbers on the back of it. Once they receive the gift card information, they will disappear with your money and cut off communication.
How to avoid this scam
Never send money or gift cards to someone you do not know personally or have not met in person. If someone is pretending to be someone you know or trust, verify their identity by contacting them directly through another communication channel.
Don't trust caller ID, as scammers can spoof phone numbers. Don't be pressured by threats or promises, scammers use emotional manipulation to get you to act quickly and without thinking. And remember, no legitimate company or institution will ever ask you to pay them with a gift card.
3. Gift Card Reselling Trick
Another gift card trick involves buying or selling gift cards on online platforms such as websites, apps or social media groups. Scammers offer to sell you gift cards at a discounted price or buy your unwanted gift cards for cash.
When they do this, they will either send you a fake or empty gift card, or they will take your gift card information and money without sending you anything in return. They may also use stolen credit cards or compromised accounts to buy or sell gift cards, which could put you at risk for fraud or identity theft.
How to avoid this scam
Buy or sell gift cards only from trusted sources, such as official retailers, authorized resellers, or trusted friends and family. Avoid buying or selling gift cards from strangers online, especially if they offer a deal that seems too good to be true.
Do not share your gift card information or personal information with anyone you do not know and trust. And use a secure payment method that offers security, such as a credit card or PayPal, instead of a gift card, bank transfer or cash.
4. Phishing gift card trick
A very popular gift card trick this holiday season involves phishing, a type of online scam that tries to trick you into revealing your personal or financial information. Scammers send you an email, text message, or pop-up message that looks like it is coming from a legitimate company, such as a retailer, bank, or tech support.
They claim that there is an issue with your account, order, device, or security and that you need to verify your identity, update your information, or resolve the issue. They will then ask you to click a link, open an attachment, or call a number, and then ask you to pay with a gift card or give them your gift card information.
How to avoid this scam
Never click on links, open attachments, or call numbers in unsolicited messages, as they may lead to fake or malicious websites or programs. Do not give out any personal or financial information, such as passwords, PINs, account numbers, or gift cards, to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.
Don't trust messages that create a sense of urgency, pressure, or fear. They are designed to make you act without thinking. If you are in any doubt about the legitimacy of a message, contact the company directly using a verified website, phone number or email address.
Using antivirus protection will help protect you from scammers and hackers who are trying to steal your money and personal information using gift card tricks, especially phishing.
The best way to protect yourself from clicking on malicious links, fake websites, and phishing emails and text messages is to install and actively use antivirus protection on all your devices. This is the best way to stop and alert you about the presence of malware on your system and ultimately protect you from being hacked.
5. The loyalty program gift card trick
This gift card trick has to do with loyalty programs—reward programs that offer you points, discounts, or free gifts for being a loyal customer. Fraudsters pretend to be representatives of a loyalty program to which you are or may become a member.
They will tell you that you have won a prize or promotion and that you need to pay a fee, tax or shipping costs to claim the prize. They will then ask you to pay them with a gift card or provide them with your gift card information.
How to avoid this scam
Be wary of any unsolicited offers or notifications that claim you've won something, especially if you don't remember entering or signing up for the sweepstakes. Don't pay any money or fees to claim a prize, as legitimate loyalty programs will never ask you to do so. Do not give out any personal or financial information, such as passwords, account numbers, or gift cards, to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.
Do not trust messages that evoke feelings of excitement, curiosity or greed, as they are designed to encourage impulsive action. If you are in any doubt about the legitimacy of a message, please contact the loyalty program directly using a verified website, phone number or email address.
How to Safely Give and Receive Gift Cards
Buy gift cards online or physical cards directly from a store rather than from a third party.
Avoid gift card counters at retail stores, such as grocery stores. If you still want to buy one of these at the store, dig through the stack without removing the first ones from the rack. Check them like a detective before purchasing to make sure they are intact.
Register your gift card directly with the merchant if offered, which will also help keep track of your card balance.
Never make any transactions with gift cards if the caller makes unusual claims. Most likely this is a scam.
Avoid purchasing gift cards from online auction sites such as eBay.
Never give personal financial information to anyone offering gift cards in a store or online.
Use antivirus protection. Effective antivirus software is a must to protect yourself from scammers and hackers who try to steal your money and personal information using gift card tricks, especially through phishing. The best way to protect yourself from clicking on malicious links, fake websites, and phishing emails and text messages is to install and actively use antivirus protection on all your devices. It will help stop and alert you about the presence of malware on your system and ultimately protect you from being hacked.
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You have been deceived. What to do next
Below are the next steps if you discover that you or a loved one has been the victim of identity theft as a result of a gift card scam from scammers or hackers.
- If you are able to regain control of your accounts, change your passwords and notify your account provider;
- review bank statements and checking account transactions to understand where unusual activity began;
- Take advantage of identity theft protection services: Identity theft protection companies can track personal information such as Social Security number, phone number and email address and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or used to open an account . They can also help you freeze your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals;
- Report any violations to authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the company selling the gift cards;
- Get professional legal advice before contacting law enforcement, especially if you are dealing with criminal identity theft and if, because you have been a victim of criminal identity theft, you are unable to find work or housing;
- notify all three major credit bureaus and possibly place a fraud alert on your credit report;
- Conduct your own background check or request a copy if this is how you learned that your information was used by a criminal;
If you are a victim of identity theft due to gift card scams, the most important thing is to take immediate action to mitigate the damage and prevent further hassle.
Gift card fraud is a serious and growing problem that can cause you to lose money, personal information, or both. However, you can protect yourself and your loved ones by being aware of the common types of gift card scams we've outlined and following simple tips to recognize and avoid them.
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