Asked to pay by gift card? Don’t.

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Has someone asked you to go get a gift card to pay for something? Lots of people have told us they’ve been asked to pay with gift cards – by a caller claiming to be with the IRS, or tech support, or a so-called family member in need. If you’ve gotten a call like this, you know that the caller will then demand the gift card numbers and PIN. And, poof, your money is gone.

Scammers are good at convincing people there really is an emergency, so lots of people have made the trip to the Walmart or Target or CVS to buy gift cards to send these callers. And scammers love gift cards – it’s one of their favorite ways to get your money. These cards are like giving cash – and nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately.

So here’s the most important thing for you to know: anyone who demands payment by gift card is always, always, always a scammer. Try this gift card buying exercise out at home – especially when anyone asks you to pay with a gift card:

Q: Should I buy an iTunes, Google Play, Steam, Kroger, Walgreens, BestBuy, Amazon, CVS, Rite Aid or ANY OTHER gift card for someone who demands payment? For any reason?

A: NO.

Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. If you’ve bought a gift card and lost money to someone who might be a scammer, tell the company who issued the card. (The contact info might be on the card, but might require some research) Call or email iTunes or Amazon or whoever it was. Tell them their card was used in a scam. If you act quickly enough, they might be able to get your money back. But – either way – it’s important that they know what happened to you. And then please tell the FTC about your loss. Your report helps us try to shut the scammers down.

Tagged with: gift cards, scam
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


I haven't been asked to do the gift card thing but I just got a check in the mail telling me I have been selected as mystery shopper and to deposit the check in my bank. I have read about this scam and chuckled a bit before I tossed it in my shredder. Thanks for the tip on the gift cards.

navt-vet; do not even open the envelope. that is a money laundering scam, and it is safe to hand it over to the irs,federal agent, or a officer of the court. state police investigator will be ok, also. thanks for your service! USAF,66-70.

Ive gotten 2 of those one for 9000.00 and one for 3500.00

Can you send me a link of the website or a url to whom the person was please? I'm investigating this situation now if you have any concern's.

It's terribly embarrassing but they got me for $250. I am hopping mad. It happened in ??? this year. Now, they are calling back. I keep trying to record them. They say they are with the FED . .. THAT I WAS SELECTED BC NO DEBT/CRIMNAL RECORD. TO RECIEVE A ??K GRANT?? GRANT. THIS A.M. I TELL THEM TO HANG ON LET ME TURN TV DOWN SO I CAN HERE. THIS GUY WAS ASIAN CANT UNDERSTAND HIM I WAS NERVOUS PROB WHY HE HUNG UP. TODAY WAS SECOND DAY THEY CALLED THIS WEEK.
HOWEVER, THEY LEFT A FEW BREAD CRUMBS THE '!?-#. YES, I DO HAVE INFO FOR YOU!! THE FIRST TIME A WOMAN THEN A MAN W THE ??? AFTER SHE SENT ME TO THE STORE TOO. LATER i REMEMBERED I HAD NOTICED SOMETHING. . . . . PLS CONTACT ME. YOU SHOULD PROB CATCH THEM BEFORE I DO, and I'm sure you will. Pls Contact me these are some real stinkers. . I'll speak with my brother (leo) about how go about this. I need to be sure your not them.

I got a call to go to walmart and get cash in hand

Im a filipino resident not bn 1 yr since we move here in u.s but few months ago im 1 of the victims of this too a person send me check i thought its real coz i never known that u.s has lot of scammers
So i did the task cash out the check on my bank then buy gift cards and send it to the email they provide everytime i done my task they send me another check until all the check i cash out s 9000dollar 1 of my husband bank called him about the fraud check that i cash out there and then a month ago my bank send me email about the check i cash is i make i big mistake and lost alot of money.and not know where to report to get the money back.

It is very difficult to get money back from a scammer. If the scammer sent the checks to you by postal mail, you can give the envelopes to the post office and report the scam. You can report the scam to the bank. If you know the scammer's name or address you could ask the police if they can help. You can report this to the FTC. Call 1-877-382-4357.

I’m 19 years old and had the same thing happen to me they got me off indeed a job website n I refuse to pay and looking for an attorney I believe we shouldn’t have to pay for this when we are the victim

I was asked to pay a fee for someone's briefacse

I applied for personal loan online, not a pay day loan with 300-1000% interest rates. I was contacted by text and email for my approval. Then was told my score was not high enough?? Had to do quick credit file rebuild? Was sent money into my account, then had to pay next day by Gift Cards? I did it, as I never signed for the money? $1800. I purchased STEAM and Walmart GC. I questioned these practices as it was strange to me and scam went off in my head??? later that day, they said still cannot wire as there's Red Flag with my account and will need to build stronger file. Then they send me $3300 in my account. Next day I go to store and purchase 3 $1000.00 Walmart gift cards. Oh, I then had to read the information off the back for repayment. Which was strange because the store clerk told me the cards have no CASH VALUE? After I get home, I feel uncomfortable, and say this has to be wrong?? I've read all of these comments and no where was there scenario where money was previously sent to person then had to be repaid back with Gift Cards. I want to know what to do besides reporting already to FTC and FBI websites?

The same thing just happened to my mother in law, they deposited 800 into her account and wanted her to buy google play cards to pay them back. The said they were from First National Bank

I think this has just happened to me. What did you do?

The same thing happened to did they take money from your account they only deposited money into my account and I’m afraid to go get a gift card from Walmart because it doesn’t sound right

People on Letgo and Offer up are asking to be paid with gift cards too. So watch out EVERYWHERE

Is there anything that the person receiving the request can do to help catch these guys? Such as Contact the Card company and FTC before providing the numbers to the Scammer? or is it best just to hang up the phone?

The best thing to do would be take the number they are calling from and the number they are telling you to call back to send them the gift card. Afterwards report it to the FTC, I would also hang up after I got that information.

Don't even buy the gift card. Just hang up, and then report the call to the FTC.

ShariYS., He is asking our opinion on how to catch these crooks...NOT intentionally buy a gift card & "freely" give out the numbers. I understood his idea immidiently. Like a sting operation of sorts. Having the police and cyber authorities monitor a "planned" gift card scam, as in hook-line & sinker, is an excellent way to nab these S.O.B's at their own game. Although it would be a slow process, at least the location & possible apprehension of these ruthless thieves,(I'm refraining from using the vulgar words that best describes these scumbags),when they do eventually try & make a purchase using the card. I'm sure it would be extremely difficult, especially since many of these scams are done by those who live overseas. His question/comment is valid, for he wants to help stop this madness of innocent people being robbed of their hard earned money and oftentimes their life savings & retirement funds. Kudos to him...& others just like him who try to help.

I think its great that there's still good people in this world. This is horrific situation and I was scammed $6k in Google Play Cards. These people knew my ss, home address and finances. Scary part they claimed that my identity has been stolen. Just sad what the world is coming to. You think your doing the right thing and now you are liable for the money since you authorized the charges. Google will do NOTHING for you. Funny how quick they are to take your money.

Google was contacted within a half hour of it happening to my son and did absolutely nothing. It makes one wonder if they aren’t behind the scams as they seem to be the beneficiaries one way or the other. Thousands of dollars in cards purchased and redeemed with their products. Seems like a win win win for google. I see no reason why they cannot pull or shut down the the product going out or after learning if the fraud some how refund the money to the victim. They are a multi billion dollar company and REFUSE to do anything even minutes after the scam has happened. I think they are ultimately behind it. They do not care about ethics or integrity just the almighty dollar.

Yes, I totally agree. I was scammed out of $500 last night by purchasing a Google Play Card. I found this # on Google for reporting unrecognizable iTune charges. I was already stressed out over the fact there was over $1500.00 worth of charges on my debit card via iTunes that I didn’t recognize. I called this #, found in my Google search, because I couldn’t get through to Apple with the first phone # I found; which was actually an Apple phone #.!! Long story short I went to the nearest store purchases the $500.00 Google Play Card because the scammers reasoning for this made so much sense to me at the time because I was so stressed and frazzled over the $1500 in iTune charges. I finally got in touch with Google and they confirmed the $500 was no longer in the Google Play Card that I just purchased and there was no way for them to refund me the $500.00!!! You’re absolutely right; this is a WIN WIN SITUATION FOR GOOGLE

I just got a call after applying for some online loans and they approve me for 1500 but told me that I had to go to Walmart and buy a Google play card for $150 cash and they would turn around and wire me 1650 right back within five minutes I just feel this is a little shady

Google is making TONS of money by scammers. I’m considering contacting a local TV station and remain anonymous when telling what happened to me. Google should refund monies lost due to these scammers.

Same that happened to me 3500 in Google play cards so you didn't get anything back?

I am unable to access this email from the FTC. Lately I’ve been experiencing this issue with a number of other emails that have been unable to access my email account either. Is this email from the FYTC, or do I need to contact you from a different source? Thank you for your help

If you subscribe to the FTC scam alerts and consumer blog posts, you received this message from the FTC by email.

My daughter was scammed using this method. They claimed to be with DirecTV. When I contacted DirecTV and paid her bill by phone I advised them of the scam. No sooner I hung up the phone they called me back and ask why I paid her bill by phone. They where watching her account that closely. Scammers are everywhere. I don't respond to anything over the internet. They imitate even the IRS, Local police, state police asking for donations.

My mother was hit by this scam, YESTERDAY. She is currently out 4k! I just sent this article to her, but any further information would be great! Thank you.

Please ask your mother to report the scam to the company that  issued the card. The contact information might be on the card, or could require some research. Contact the company and tell them their card was used in a scam.

Also, please report this to the FTC at The information you give will go into a secure database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

I was scammed yesterday and lost $2,200.00. While the scammers used their typical strategy described above, there was one thing exceptional in my case. Let me share it here for others to know. Two days ago, I made a small purchase on one of my phone apps using my iTunes account. Yesterday, I wanted to cancel the purchase and get a refund of it. So, I went to Google on phone, searched for "iTunes billing customer service phone number." Then, the first thing appeared as the search result was "Call (855)552-9975 - 24/7 iTune Billing Support." Underneath this, they also had a few lines of description, ", Billing Support Refund Help Desk."

Since it was the first thing appeared as a result of Google search, I didn't even carefully read the strange website address but directly called the number. Then, from that point on, they used went by their typical script; asked me if I have made a purchase for a gambling machine from Florida; I said No; then, they said that my iTunes account was hacked and there is $600.00 of charge for the purchase of gambling machine; then told me to go to Target or a grocery store to buy iTunes card worth of $700.00; then, he transferred me to the "senior agent" because he found further "fraud"which only his senior agent can handle. They said that I need to purchase 22 iTunes gift card (although they preferred STEAM card, there was no $100.00 STEAM card of $100.00 available at the stores) of $100.00.

They said that they would have to tell me exactly which iTunes card that I am supposed purchase, so they stayed on the phone call for the entire 4 hours while I was traveling to 3-4 different grocery stores. Target and Safeway didn't allow me to purchase more than certain number of iTunes gift card (the transaction declined, etc.). These scammers, who stayed on the phone for the entire 4 hours, even searched for the grocery stores around me after asking my zip code. I foolishly drove back and forth between these grocery stores ending up purchasing iTunes gift card of $2,200.00 value, scratching every single one of them to give them the gift card numbers.

They attempted to have me make more purchase but my credit card continued to be declined at the 4th grocery store. This all sounds very stupid but it was my very first time getting scammed and they really sounded very convincing that i didn't even think of questioning them. Anyhow, my phone battery was dying and I told them to call me back and finish the process the next day (which is today).
On my way back home, I suddenly felt that something was not right. I went to the official Apple website, then called to the real Apple.

Another strange thing is that: the real Apple agent that I spoke with told me that he recognize my cell phone number from their call record at the exact time that I called the scammers. However, he told me the record shows that that particular call lasted only for about 15 minutes. If what he said was accurate, then my question is "Is there a co-scammer inside the Apple? Then this person first accepted my call, then transferred me to his colleagues?"

Anyhow, I called the Apple iTunes again this morning and reported the case. However, the agent whom I just spoke with said that she doesn't recognize my cell phone number from the call records from yesterday.

I went to Google again, and typed the exact same words that I typed yesterday. Then, the link and the phone number information that popped up yesterday did not show up any more.

The lesson is: Always contact the main contact number that appears on the official websites of the company.

You an report this to Apple Support at 1-800-275-2273 and to the FTC at The information you give will go into a secure database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

Did she get any back

I was a victim of this scam. Chase fraud dept was great and said it can happen to anyone. These scum bags are good! Don't be fooled

Did you get your money back?

This happen to me, but in a different way. The scammers used online gmail communication using a fraud scheme regarding a job offer. The company was real with Letter of Employment Offer and logo, but the scammers were not.
I was sent a check by USPS to begin using materials and supplies to work at home for this company. My first assignment was to purchase iTune gift cards for $200($100 each), scratch off the back of the cards and scan it back to them, showing that I had purchased it.
I was so excited about being able to work at home that I did this stupid thing. Well, you can guess, the check was altered/fraud. I reported this to FTC and the real company. I lost $200 but learned a lesson and now I am passing on to others. I am waiting on a questionnaire from the USPS Inspection Commission and I will also report this to the Texas Attorney General's Office.

I think this is happen to me at this very moment.
I was sent a check for $2380.33 for an office setup. (which was not accepted by my bank, because it was clearly a fraudulant check.

Later, they emailed me a softcopy of a check for the value of half of that (due to the mobile deposit limitations of my bank)

The amount was deposited and I was asked to drive to the walmart and purchase steam wallet cards so the tech department could download apps i will be working with on my new laptop and Iphone (that they said are going to send to me)...

As soon as I came home, i was asked to scratch the cards, one by one and take a picture.

So what I did was take pictures of google image searches for "steam card scratched"... I sent those pictures to them...

Hey, how long have you been waiting for the check fraud alert since you bought those gift card?
Please help me, I met someone from dating app, and right now we are texting through hangouts, which is like a gmail communication. I’m not sure if she is a real person, but she has deaposited check with 900 values into my online banking, and I used all to buy her the gift card she needs. I’m gonna confirm if she’s real...

to late I got scammed

I don't pick up numbers I don't recognize. Then, I look up the number online. If it's questionable, I don't call back and I report it to the FTC. I've seen numbers from all over the country.

I have lost thousand of dollars to scammers and am ashamed because I am a senior citizen and now, I know I have been a victim I have kept the money order receipts or receipts from the bank but tell me, is there any way I can get this money back? These people said they were just going to borrow the money but no one paid it back.

You can talk with someone at your bank, and ask if you can report the people who tricked you into buying money orders. 

You might also want to report those people to the Attorney General in your state. Click here to see a list of all state Attorneys General.

I fell for that Target scam where they send you a check and then they tell you what to buy which was iTunes cards and to peel the number off the backs and email them the photos of the back of the cards. I'm stupidly out $1850.22. Then had the nerve to send me a second larger check today which I new was a fraud and took it to the bank that it supposedly came from and called the police.

I have been getting phone calls from someone claiming to be working on a case for the IRS and is giving me 24 hours to call them back, threatening that the police will come to arrest me if I don't respond. I know it is a scam, but do I report this? ..and to whom?

You can report this to the FTC at The information you give will go into a secure database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

Someone tried to get me to buy a used car using Ebay gift cards

watch out for the call claiming to be from Microsoft and claiming your computer has a virus and they need to log in to fix it this is a scam, they will log in and mess the computer up with a virus and spyware and charge you to fix it. Also watch out for those pop-ups on your screen claiming to be from Microsoft wanting you to call a number right away because you have a virus, this is usually a scam I just restart my computer and run my Norton or security software.

I received a call from those idiots this morning telling me my Window "license" key had expired. I thanked the guy for letting me know. Told him to have a good day and hung up.

I was also scammed by someone who said they were MICROSOFT but first my computer was sent a warning that looked pretty darn real to me. I called the number on the screen and they of course answered with “ Microsoft help desk”. I was told my computer was being hacked by someone getting child porn. I’m a nanny so that hit a nerve. After three days of calls and $1600 in Google Play cards I am a slightly more jaded individual. I’m humiliated and ashamed that it never occurred to me that it was a scam.

My husband & I were told to purchase an itunes gift card for $1oo.oo by someone who we thought was from HP tech support . we were having trouble with our computer at the time & told us that the code on the back would help us fix the trouble we were having . When something like this happens , you can't help but feel helpless, violated & stupid for having been taken . We will never , ever fall for that one again . Please don't let this happen to any of you .Be careful & be wise when dealing with these dirty dogs .


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