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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.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit
Scam Tags:  Gift Card Scams

Comments

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 FTC.gov/Complaint. 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, "itunesbilling.wixsite.com, 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 FTC.gov/Complaint. 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

Josie,
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...

So is she real or not?

This exact thing happened to me, but they wanted Amazon gift cards. Another company had me transferring funds for "work equipment" via MoneyGram or Western Union and I soon found out the checks were fake.

Jennifer thank you for sending this out. I have been called over 25 times and i have returned these numbers below. These people are aggressive and the one i found was from Pakistan and spouted anti american expletives, funny they could not understand my English but then i am a former Britt. Numbers - 646-682-0791 585-633-0372 208-216-6144 I hope this helps anyone out there.

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.

Keep the money and don’t give out the PINs.

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 FTC.gov/Complaint. 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 .

Hello I have a question --- message.
A US citizen (businessman) goes to Tailand can not use his business account do not self, make me in his bank account at GLOBAL UNION BANK LTD I help him, but that I do for him cann one needs a code Now according to an opinion for an account you automatically get a code to do so. (in my country it is so) but at this bank if you have no code must be paid penalty and not a bit 2620 $. I have not heard that yet. Thank you

This sounds very strange. It could be a scam.

Did the businessman say the bank is a US bank?  A legitimate US bank will have a website with a list of bank locations and contact information. Search online for information. Contact a bank employee to ask about fees.  If you have more questions, send me another question.

If you do not find information about a legitimate bank, do not send money by wire transfer, check or other payment method. You will lose all the money you send.

I have been talking to this man who says he is in the army and is stationed in Africa and can't get access to his money only what he needs. My question is by purchasing a amonzon gift card using cash only can they access anything from you.

That is a scam. He can access his money and he wants you to send him Amazon gift cards? Come on. You can’t buy food and other essentials with Amazon gift cards in Africa.

I never been scammed yet and i too been talking to this girl that says shes in the u s army. She said her bday is nov 25th, is stationed in Afghanistan and would like me to send her a steam card so her and her colleague's can help orphans there and thats what she wants to do for her bday. Said she cant access her bank account and i just play along with their stories. She said shes a mp in the army name is Linda Lewis. I know the pics are stolen from a girl and is a guy behind the chat, but i like leading them on up until they ask for money.

I had the same thing today tried chatting me on Instagram saying he needs help getting a card as he caint access his accounts wanted me to send iTunes card to him he said he was in the army in Africa

What was his name

I was a victim of this IRS fraud and nieve enough to believe the caller. I lost $8,000 instantly and there was no getting it back. The thief had me going to different stores purchasing several i-tune gift cards to pay for supposed tax penalties. The perpetrator sounded middle eastern so it was international. He continued to threaten me with the police if I disconnected the phone. I truly believed I was going to jail if I didn't pay. Eventually, the police did get involved and called i-tunes immediately and there was nothing the police or i-tunes could do. It was all a scam. I felt so defeated, angry, and frustrated that I actually believed this guy was the IRS.

I received a call from these scammers just last week. They said I owe a lot of money to the IRS and that there was a warrant out for my arrest. I laughed so hard that they hung up. They called back saying that it was no laughing matter and that I needed to pay. In not so many polite words I told them what they could do with their threats and scam and just hung up. They didn't call me a third time. The IRS will never call you. They send you official letters. If you ever need to know if something is real, call your local office. Sorry you got scammed, it's frustrating. Take care.

I nearly fell for this scam this morning. I too felt ashamed and violated. Almost paid $2000 of the $8000 they were requesting. I was tired at the time and feeling a little vulnerable because I'm not always the best at filing tax returns. It was disgusting, and thankfully there was enough visible and readily available, informative, documentation at Walmart near the money services that I was able to FINALLY do the math on this situation, and back out. Pretty embarrassing.

My concern is that they might've asked me for my social security number which I gave them. I'm pretty sure they asked, but I'm just so angry it's hard to recall everything.

If they did get my social security number, what can I do to prevent identity theft at this point?

I'd love to provide any phone numbers to somewhere or anything helpful in any ongoing investigations - doubtful there - but just saying. Bust these losers.

Go to www.IdentityTheft.gov and scroll down to the bottom half of the page. Look for the link to the list of "Warning Signs of Identity Theft."

I just fell for this too James. This is exactly what happened to me as well. I was so freaked out that I could be arrested. I'm out almost as much money as you. I don't even know what to do. I feel so violated.

If you receive Unknown Calls do not call back, just put them on the Reject call and click Clear or delete it, but it does not really matter even your doctors want to make money, so your phone number is easy pray.

I have been asked to get itunes to see if I am willing to get a personal loan

I was scammed 1024.00 I reported it to FTC the police and my bank changed my online sign in and password i’m Having it investigated and so far Wells Fargo said I am not responsible

Thank you for the updates on the gift cards the IRS people are calling every day I don't pick up the phone but I do have the recording on my answering machine and when I went to the IRS site they had this scam and every word they said was just like the one I have on my machine .They might be scammers but this lady left a message on a landline phone !!! Now I can give it to the IRS people I hope they can trace it and get some of these crooks

I answered the phone from a lady saying she was from he IRS and said, that her office was trying to get a hold of us fpr the past 6 weeks saying she needed our tax I.D. number and that we were being audited. We have never had that before. And when she talked she used dome device to make sound like she was in a office like a decoder to where it were cut off part of her voice as she was talking, like using a rotary phone maybe to trace my number or whatever. I have the phone number who do I give it too so they can get this scammer!!!!!!
Thank you.

This has been happening to us too. I had already heard about it somehow, but my husband actually got the call while he was at work. He talked to the guy for a long time and told him he'd have to call back when he was at home to get his info. My husband was worried and probably would've told him anything he wanted to know of I hadn't been aware of the scam and told him not take the calls anymore.

this is a question. I was called saying I was approved for a federal grant. they first insisted that i buy a google play card for 450.00 and give them the #, because, unless i prepaid the taxes, i wouldn't get the "grant". this is a scam, is it not?

That sounds like a scam. The federal government does not call people and offer grants.

Once I found out the calls saying they were helping me with things put on my name as they said, by a punishment of arrest and jail...if I did not talk to them or pay. Once I confirmed it was a scam, I changed my answering machine message to You have reached the Brywood Police Dept. If this is an emergency, hang up and dial911. Otherwise leave your name and number and so on...Once they hear either you saying out loud..."Brywood Police Department" They leave no message and or hang up...as their message of doom for you obviously is a scam since well you said Police...Brywood Police Dept is a made up name.

Received call ststing my devices have been hacked and I should buy 300.00 worth of these cards as payment to fix computer. I did so and they had me scan cards and receipt to them and then destory them. I called apple and was informed of the scam.

I was on Facebook few days ago looking at comments on debt consultation and this guy was posting to message him and about information about CDFI grant loans you can get and don't have to pay back. Well I messaged him and he gave me this phone number told me to text them and tell them I was in need of financial assistance. I did and they said I need your full name to see if you are on our list to get the grant. Few minutes he replies yes you are. Now we need information about you well I gave it to them not knowing I was stupid. He tells me I have to pay $500 in tax money to get the grant. When I told him I didn't have it. It's no problem do you have credit card I said yes it's maxed out he said didn't matter. He was going to use his company card to pay my credit card off and I am suppose to get a iTunes card for $500 and send to him are he will lose his job. He sent me a picture of were he paid it off. I was getting scared so I called my credit card company and ask about how it was paid off she told me it was on my bank account. When I called and told him he said you liar ( he is from another country) you spending money on it. I told him I wasn't and I am not a liar, I also told him and I was telling the truth that I had told my credit card company to put a hold on my account until I can find out what's going on. He got so mad he told me if I didn't get his money to him I would pay double. And I need to do what they tell me. That guy that hooked me up with this guy messaged me wanting to know what was going on and I told him. I believe he is working with this guy. I don't know what to do. Someone told me I should just keep his money cause he was trying to steal from me. I have been so stress and upset. Can you tell me what I can do?

If someone says you can get a loan or grant - but you have to pay first - that is probably a scam.

Some scammers pretend to pay off your credit card. Then, they tell you to buy an iTunes card tell them the number. After they get the code from the iTunes card, they cancel or reverse the "payment" they made on your credit card. You find out your credit card is NOT paid off, and you lost money on an iTunes card.

Hi yeah I'm dealing with someone saying this same thing, I thought it was weird but he was like yeah I'll pay off your credit card and then you send 1500 dollars in walmart cards for these "kids at the orphanage I'm helping" and I'm like that's weird?? But like I'd have to use the credit card to get it so I was just really confused?? But this makes sense. When the money is in my account can I just block them and change my info??

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