Gift card scams you need to be aware of this holiday season


December 22, 2023

Promo Protect all your devices, without slowing them down.
Free 30-day trial
Gift card scams you need to be aware of this holiday season

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.

How gift card scams work

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.

How to avoid gift card scams

  • Never give out your gift card numbers and codes to strangers who contact you online (by email or social media) or by phone. Gift cards are to be used as gifts or gifted. Anyone who contacts you out of the blue and demands payment via any type of gift card is a scammer. No official law enforcement agent, company employee, tech support agent, lottery or government official will ever use pressure tactics to demand you purchase gift cards and urgently hand them over their PIN codes and numbers.
  • Avoid purchasing heavily discounted gift cards online, especially from retailers you do not know. Whenever you come across any promotion or big discount for gift cards, use caution. Anything that sounds too good to be true is a scam.
  • Purchase gift cards directly from a trusted retailer and register it whenever possible.
  • When purchasing physical gift cards in a store, always check for tampering. This could be a barcode sticker over the card’s actual one, exposed PINs or any altered packaging
  • Always read the terms and conditions of a gift card and try to use them as quickly as possible.
  • Be wary of any fake platforms that allow you to check your gift card’s balance. Scammers set up fraudulent online platforms to steal your balances.
  • Immediately report stolen, lost or tampered gift cards to the retailer, online platform and the BBB.
  • Use security tools to help you defend against online gift card scams and safeguard your money and data. Bitdefender’s security solutions can detect suspicious links, and fraudulent websites you access or receive via email, text or instant messaging, immediately notifying you of the risks.
  • Have a chat with Bitdefender Scamio via your web browser or Facebook Messenger to immediately find out if the message, link or QR code you received is attempting to scam you.

Chat with Scamio for free here!




Alina is a history buff passionate about cybersecurity and anything sci-fi, advocating Bitdefender technologies and solutions. She spends most of her time between her two feline friends and traveling.

View all posts

You might also like