Gift Card Scams

January 21, 2022

Awareness

Gift cards are for just that, gifts! They have become popular with scammers, however, because they’re easy for people to access and purchase, and they have fewer protections for buyers compared to other payment options such as debit or credit cards. Much like cash, though, once the gift card has been used, the money is gone, making it an easy crime for scammers.

If you have been asked to buy a gift card as payment to someone, stop! It’s a scam! And, it’s important to remember that no real business or government agency will ever insist you pay them with a gift card.

What a gift card scam looks like

The scammer calls and says it’s urgent and that you need to pay them right away or something terrible will happen. Rest assured, though, you don’t have to, and it won’t.The scammer will usually tell you which gift cards to buy; eBay, Google Play, Amazon, and iTunes are popular choices. Sometimes the scammer will demand you purchase the cards at several stores so that cashiers don’t become suspicious.

Finally, the scammer asks you for the gift card number(s) and PIN(s) in order for them to gain access to the money from the card online and make purchases right away.

How scammers convince you to pay with gift cards

The scammers' mission is to scare or pressure you into acting quickly, so you don’t have time to think or talk to someone you trust. They accomplish this by pretending they are someone they’re not. Some common gift card scams and schemes are:

  1. The Government or Police – they say you have done something illegal and must pay a fine or taxes.
  2. Tech Support – scammers say there is something wrong with your computer and offer to “fix” it for payment of a gift card.
  3. Romance Scammer – you meet someone on a dating website, but suddenly they need money and ask you to help, often making up a story to achieve their goal.
  4. Friend / Family Imposter – they pretend to be someone you know and ask you to send money immediately due to an emergency situation, but demand you do not tell anyone.
  5. The prize, Sweepstakes, Lottery – they will tell you that you have won a large prize, but first, you have to pay fees, taxes, or other charges with gift cards.
  6. Utility Company – the scammers threaten to cut off your power or other utility services if you do not pay immediately.

What to do if you paid a scammer with gift cards

If you have paid a scammer with a gift card, report the incident to RCMP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre immediately, as well as the company that issued the card. There is typically a customer service number on the back of the card. Always keep the physical gift card and the payment receipt.

If someone asks you to pay them with gift cards, report the scam immediately!


Friendly Reminders

Report crime online!

The RCMP are encouraging all Albertans to report eligible crimes online (select property crimes under $5,000). Reporting less serious crimes online helps emergency dispatch and frontline members focus their time on high-priority calls. It provides a convenient way to share photos to the RCMP as well. These reports assist in crime analysis, aid in establishing trends and patterns, and ultimately leads investigators to the chronic offenders. It also assists in making decisions about how and where to deploy resources. Crimes reported online will be taken just as seriously as crime reported in any other way.  

Help reduce crime, report online! #ReportSmart

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