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Need a last minute gift? Feds warn of gift card scams

Federal Trade Commission says you should report scammers
Gift Cards
Posted at 12:53 PM, Dec 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-22 21:23:18-05

INDIANAPOLIS — If you’re planning to buy gift cards as a last-minute Christmas gift, be cautious. The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning this week about gift card scams.

The FTC says gift card scams typically start with a call, text, email, or social media message.

“Usually what they do is try to get you into a heightened emotional state—there’s something wrong,” said Cristina Miranda, a Consumer Education Specialist with the FTC. “There’s a family emergency. You need to pay something urgently. Your benefits will be taken away. It’s always that urgent excuse.”

Scammers might pretend they’re from the government, a company you know, or thanks to AI voice cloning, they may even sound like a trusted friend or family member.

“Remember that gift cards are only for gifts and not because someone tells you to buy a gift card and then give them the numbers off the back of the card,” said Miranda. “Because if you give them the number off the back of the card, whatever money you’ve put on it will disappear because of scammers.”

The FTC recommends you take the following steps:

  • Report the gift card scam to the gift card company. It doesn’t matter how long ago the scam happened. Use this How To Contact Gift Card Companies list to report it.
  • Ask for your money back. Some companies are helping stop gift card scams. They might give your money back. It’s worth asking.
  • Tell the FTC at Your report makes a difference and helps protect people in your community from fraud and scams.

Lots of scammers are also offering discounted or free gift cards by sending phishing emails in exchange for your personal or financial information.

The FTC says do not click on any text or email links.

“We are telling people if you get a message with a link to it, if you click on that link it could lead you to a bogus website,” said Miranda. “Those links can lead to an installation of software on your computer. You really want to be careful about any type of links you receive. Just don’t click on them.”