Gift card scams are popular all year round, but the holiday season is a particularly opportune moment for scammers to strike unwary consumers.
More recently, the Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission have been warning individuals about an increase in gift card fraud as cybercrooks continue to line their pockets and harvest personal information amid the Christmas season.
Gift card scams can involve anything from physical in-store tampering to fake websites where users can check their balances.
Here are three general categories of gift card scams you need to be aware of to protect your data and finances:
1. Scammers demand gift cards as payment
Gift cards are easy to buy and can be found in most physical and online stores. Most importantly, gift cards can be seen as cash and are often an untraceable form of payment that can even be used to purchase cryptocurrency.
Only fraudsters will tell you to buy gift cards and give them the numbers as a form of payment. Many impostors who impersonate government officials or law enforcement agencies online contact potential victims via phone, email or text and demand payment via gift card to avoid jail time, high fines or deportation.
However, you should be wary of any online individuals who demand gift card payment for goods or other online services.
They usually ask victims to purchase Amazon, Google Play, Apple gifts, Steam and many other cards, and share the number and PIN codes.
2. Gift cards at a discount on online marketplaces and social media
Some fraudsters tempt users looking to save money this Christmas with discounted gift cards that are often fake, stolen or used. Online scammers have latched onto online marketplaces such as eBay, Craigslist and Facebook marketplace to peddle worthless gift cards drained of any balances to unwary customers.
3. In-store gift card tampering
Scammers also go out of their way to conduct large-scale fraud with stolen gift card codes. They physically go into a store, write down the codes from gift cards, and lie waiting for unsuspecting customers to purchase them. Once a customer has activated them, the crooks immediately empty the card.
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