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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


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??

Watch out on Facebook-there is a man on there claiming to work for the UN under contract-he says he is a doctor, and is from Miami, but is currently in Lebanon "under contract" he is supposedly widowed with 2 children-Tries being all nice and wants to be friends than starts getting romantic-next thing you know he wants me to get him an ITunes card because he needed to "update his phone before it died" Well someone working for the UN you would think wouldn't have this problem-I didn't fall for it, but just beware on Facebook!

Im a victim of IRS phone scam like 3 days ago and they got $10k on my account thru google play. What else i can do to protect my identity since they know my social, my drivers license, my bday, where i live, etc. i filed a police report, filed a complaint at FTC and TITGA. I dont even know what is real and fake coz i got an email from TITGA that they received my complaint and gave me a number to call but unfortunately my fiancé founds out that its probably the same people who took my money claiming that they are irs investigator and they also mimic a police number lapd they told me to google it while i was on the phone to make sure it's real police. Threatened me that they will arrest me if i dont pay. I just wanted to know how can i protect myself after this incident? All i want is for them to be found and prosecuted coz this isn't right. Nobody else needs to experience this anymore. So pls i need help. Thank you.

Go to to report the theft of your personal information. You can report exactly what information you shared, and get fillable forms and letters to send to the agencies and businesses to protect your identity.

Report an IRS imposter to TIGTA. TIGTA is the Tax Inspector General for Tax Administration - part of the Department of the Treasury.

TIGTA, the IRS and your local police will not arrest you if you don't send money.

This happened to me in person this week. I'm out $5k! Had me chasing around to Walgreens and CVS to help clear their debt at a payday loans place with VISA gift cards - they kept saying you'll get the money right back. Well, I feel like a dolt because the signs were all there - I'm a single mom with not much money to begin with. Thankfully a cashier at CVS tipped me off. These people are good at lying. He took advantage of my huge amount of empathy and understanding what it's like to be poor. I'm so embarrassed. Reading these other comments has been helpful and validating.

the same thing just happened to me yesterday. 10k single mom

For several months now ive been paying a payment with a google play card saying that i had to pay with Google card because my name is on the list of people who promise to pay don't! I've been paying on 2 bills the exact same way, and they said that they couldn't provide proof of this bill until after it's paid off, because its at the courthouse or something like that, and said if i didn't pay this bill each month on the actual day it's due, they will issue a warrant out for my arrest! It sounded like aligitament case , from a payday loan that i took out several years back totaling $985!Well I thought that I had paid the loan back it was only a $400 loan, and i swore I paid it back, but several years later they contacted me by email, and threatened me ect...i asked for proof and they said they didn't have the records there, they were at the courthouse!! So every mth I've been paying $75 on Google play cards, and they have been sending receipts but with no balanced on it! I'm not only doing this for one company but two, who have said I owed money too but I'm paying $75 for two companies!! Been doing it for months and deep down thinking that they were scams, but being threatened to be issued a warrant every time if i dont pay I'm scared and intimidated! Do you think these people are real? Should I continue paying them? They can't issue a warrant if I stop paying them can they? Please help me!! Thanks! Note, there are 2 companies I'm paying the same amount to with a google card!

A real debt collector has to send you a written notice with facts about the debt, within 5 days after they first contact you. If the person who calls won't send that notice, they might be a fake debt collector. A fake debt collector might have some of your personal information, and try to scare you into sending money that you don't owe, or don't owe to him.

 When someone says you owe a debt, ask for a written validation notice. The notice must include:

  • the amount of the debt,
  • the name of the creditor you owe, and
  • your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If a caller can't give you all of this information, do not pay! If you pay  a fake debt collector, he might make up another debt to try to get more money from you.

Thank you

New scam out...they hack a friends messenger, pretend to be that friend,
tell you how they just got this free grant and to text a number to qualify. Of course u qualify and for x dollars you will receive 100 times that via UPS....$350 for $35000, $700 for $70000, etc. As soon as they said get multiple $100 gift cards I knew it was a scam. Haven't been able to contact the friend either to verify it was them or let them know they've hacked...

there is a Kristin B West on facebook asking for you to get an I tunes card to pay for a bcdp grant you pay 100.00 for a 50,000 dollar grant that you can use for anything you want never have to repay don't fall for it

I got totally scammed this morning, but the scary thing is that the request was a phishing scheme from my boss. He often asks me to purchase giveaways, so I didn't think that it was shady or suspicious. He claimed to be in a meeting and the client was waiting for me to go to a store, buy the cards, scratch off he back PIN and photo and send to him. The good thing is that I was able to call the credit card immediately and report it as fraud. Luckily, the CC company cancelled my card and the charges and will be issuing me a new card. SCARY to think I fell for this...

Same exact thing happened to me, but CC company (Chase) is refusing to categorize it as fraud and cancel the card, since I made the purchase myself. How did you have better luck?

I got a scam email from a friend asking me to buy itunes cards for him since he was out of he country. I ALWAYS check email addresses regardless who or what before i send or accept an email. This "friends" address was different by one letter in the middle - hardly noticeable - so i replied to him using the address in my file. And then I called him on the phone. Of course, he was getting calls from numerous friends that knew the request sounded strange. He had been hacked. SO, IF YOU GET AN EMAIL FROM A FRIEND, CHECK THE SENDERS EMAIL ADDRESS. DONT USE 'REPLY' - GO TO YOUR ADDRESS LIST TO REPLY - AND CALL THEM ON THE PHONE! !

I am from Germany and have correspondence with a man from San Francisco. This put me under pressure to buy him a gift card. Now he wants money for hospital bills. how can you catch or punish him? I would like to help and lure him out of the reserve.

I was caught in this scam as well, although in a little different way. I was told i would receive a personal loan from Lending Tree for $1,500 yesterday. The man said this call was actually being recorded and was a 3-way call between me, him, and the FTC. I stupidly gave him all the information he needed to basically commit Identity theft and take my money. Long story short, he deposited monies into my account and said it was federal money and I couldn't refuse to repay it as verification that I was who I said I was. After 5 cards- a Wal-Mart gift card, and 4 Google Play cards from two different stores local to me, I'm out $1,600+. I called the credit bureaus and put a credit freeze on each of my bureau reports, cancelled all credit cards, completed an FTC report,etc. I live off SSDI and can't pay my bills this month now. I'm usually good about catching onto these scams, but was vulnerable because I needed money for a major purchase for my car.

I don’t understand. If money was deposited into your account And You paid the gift cards with that money how are you out money

The scammer deposited a bad check. The man who wrote this comment didn't know the check was bad, so he used the money to buy gift cards. He  gave the cards (or the numbers from the cards) to the scammer. Later, the bank found out the check was bad, and the commenter has to repay the bank all the money he used to buy the cards.

I was scammed like this too!! Didn’t know bad checks were being deposited. 2 or 3 came back and I found out when I went to the bank. By that time, the dude had already deposited more checks. I really thought they were real because the 1st one allowed me to get the money. Of course I was getting itune cards as well. So now that this has happened. I don’t buy no cards

Are all gift card requests a scam? I was recently asked to buy a Google play gift card, but HE was/is going to put the cash needed into my cashapp account, and let me keep the remainder... How is this a scam since ne can't get the money back once it's deposited?

In one scam, a person seems to add money to your account. You use that money to buy a gift card, and send him the gift card, or the code from the card. But then, the scammer cancels the payment to your account, or you find out he paid with a bad check and there really wasn't money added to your account. The scammer gets a gift card and you lose money.

I also fell for this, im broke, devastated and feel like a total idiot. his name was felix scott cell number(512) 298-5759 BEWARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was scammed by a computer online support company that said they would give a refund of my support payment from 6 months prior-then they got into my bank account, made 2 wire transfers to a bank in India-my bank got back one of the transfers but not both-plus I got them 2 gift cards from Target before I realized it was all a big scam-I never got the refund they claimed I would get-so I am out $ 6000-and very ashamed that I fell for this scam! Beware!!!!!

I was scammed today. Twice. I got an email from my boss (with his name) asking me to purchase iTunes gift cards for him. He was in meetings all day. (we had just been texting about 15 min prior...I knew he was swamped all day...and we have a very busy week this week at work). He asked me to get 6 $100 itunes cards and send him the pics. I stupidly did that. Then...for some reason, I texted him too..and said that I sent the cards..let me know if you got them. His response "huh". I immediately went back to the email...and sure enough, it was his name and had a different email address. I was in shock!! I quickly took the 6 cards and downloaded them into my own itunes account. I had $600 in itunes credit. So...when I finally calmed down a bit, I realized it would probably be YEARS before I used over $600 in I googled itunes phone number. I saw a few...and clicked on the top one that looked like it was the REAL iTunes. Well..after spending an hour on the phone..and them telling me the only way I could get my money back was by "Send as Gift" to myself to prove it is true..and then to them (applerefund@yahoo) I seriously questioned him several times about the yahoo address. Then I searched it. Sure showed apple refund and yahoo (these people are clever!). After I had transferred what I thought was $300 from the $600 credit...I was then told to give me cc number and they will credit me today. I did that. Then..I was transferred to a "senior agent" who told me that I couldn't get the other $300 back unless I purchased a GOOGLE CARD for $300-600 for them to credit me back. THAT is when I lost it. I said..I find it funny that APPLE is asking me to get a GOOGLE card. That is when he hung up on me. I immediately called back...was called some VERY horrible names. I hung up..they called back and said some more choice words and hung up. I called to "Report this person's horrible attitude" and HE answered and said "why are you calling me B"..and then proceeded to swear at me. I finally hung up. I then called the REAL iTunes and was able to have them transfer the $300 back to my account. I am currently out $900...but will be getting a check back from iTunes. They said it was because I acted so quickly..if the money was spent on the cards, I wouldn't have been able to get it back. Unfortunately, Apple sees this all the time. I did file a complaint on the FTC website. I am honestly worried for my safety. They now know where I live, and my phone number. I did block their number. But I can't help but be nervous. That guy was so hateful and threatening. Something needs to be done about this!!! So many people are being taken advantage of. It's just disgusting!!

My elderly mother fell for the grandparent scam where someone called pretending to be a grandchild in trouble. She was instructed to buy $7,000 in gift cards from Walmart. This has been reported to police and the state AG. But why is Walmart not playing a role in intervening in such purchases? An 84 year old woman wanting to purchase $7,000 in gift cards should have been a huge red flag for the customer service person she worked with at Walmart. Had this person mentioned this scam to her, she might have not made the purchase at all and lost money she needs to live on. Walmart is profiting from this crime, which makes them somewhat complicit for such an obvious situation.

I’m going to say people on Facebook messenger isn’t any better. I’m working on laughing at the third person to try this. They act like they want a relationship, but then they help for whatever reason. To fix they want you to get them a gift card. It’s sad that they will use people this way. So, all I can say is if you don’t know the person messaging you. Don’t respond, cause they will talk you up for a couple of days and then it comes down to I need a gift card.

Not only Facebook. Instagram also. Have someone trying to say they love me but now wants a gift card to help buy groceries. I'm trying to reverse ping to provide info to local authorities, so i am keeping up with the charade.

I was scammed by the Apple scammers, too. I thought it was real because the phone number was the same as Apple's support phone number. What I later learned is that they can spoof the phone number and the Apple support site so that it looks real, which is what fooled me. They had me, in my state of complete stupidity, let them log in to my PC, where they did a song and dance showing that I had serious viruses and the only way to fix it was to pay them with gift cards. I wound up being out $2500. I still can't believe I fell for this. Anyway, the next day, I immediately took my PC and my Mac to be virus checked. I also changed my user IDs and passwords for every online account that I have. A lot of companies will let you sign up for dual authentication. It's a pain having to use dual authentication but it's worth it. I already have a freeze on my credit records, something more people need to do. Another thing I did was to remove all sensitive data from my computers (like tax files) and just keep them on an external disk drive. And finally, I have sworn to NEVER NEVER NEVER answer a phone call from an unknown number.

I was scammed out of 4,000 dollars in March/April . HUGE loss!

Unfortunately I was scammed as well earlier this week from a Henry McLain claiming he worked with Lending Tree; the business phone number that I called sounded reputable however the practices of were unethical. First it started with receiving a text mail saying I was approved for a $10,000 loan next I was told since my credit wasn’t in great standing that the government uses grants to fund insecure loans. To make a long story short the theives were granted access to deposit large amounts of money into my account and then I was told to go to Walmart or any other stores and get Google Play cards. I did this process and yes now looking back at it; it sounds ridiculous and while I was going through the process I kept losing my patience with the idiot; Henry Mclain kept assuring me that it was apart of the process the hardest part of this whole thing was I didn’t have my car accessible at this time so I guess these criminals had a moment of empathy and told me it was okay to use some of the “insurance money” to uber to get their illegal money out of my account.
I guess that whole process of staying in constant communication with the criminal was for him to develop my trust so later on if they did decide to put $10,000 in my account they could take the money out at their leisure. Well unfortunately they ended up getting me for $450; when I caught on to what was happening after calling the criminal back and fussing him out for asking for more money; I said I would call him back and instead contacted my bank explained the situation and immediately withdrew the money I had in my account and closed the account. My next step was to reach out to the FTC and I filed a complaint providing telephone numbers dates and times of the transactions. I contacted Google play and was informed by the representative to contact the FBI website. This is my next step; also I plan to visit each store that I purchased the cards from since they are in my neighborhood and make management aware of the scam so they could hopefully place Flags on large amounts that are being placed on these cards. Those criminals picked the wrong person to mess with!!!

Google play scam going on as I'm typing. I'm horrified. My brother is literally dying of stage 4 lung cancer so we speak. Trying to get money to help him. Now if bank rejects the deposit they made and doesn't deposit what was agreed to my life will be over truly. I will lose everything. My family will be so disappointed and everything will be gone. I really will end it all

My fone is a telefax and every call I get it is printed out for me as to date and time and the phone#.It works nicely especially in investigations

What about someone calls you and offers a loan for 5,000. They say because my credit score is not that good, i will have to pay an insurance payment of 140. And then your money will be put in your account within 25 minutes. Then they call and tell you have to pay 285 and so i purchase more Google Pay cards and send them the codes. At first they said the 1st payment would be 200 instead of 140.
Then they called me and said i needed to send 215 more which i did then they said i had to pay State Tax on it and it would be 485. I didn't have it, so i had to wait until i got paid, then they said it would 550 and i sent that and kept asking when would the money be in my account. They first said 45 one
called and i called back after 2 hours. Again the told me they were trying to verify the Google Card numbers. Anyway it has been 48 hours and i tried to tell them i needed the money in my account but they say they are working on it. They also say don't be critical of us. We are doing the best we can for you. I told them i thought it was a scam and they got mad. Well here i sit out 1500 and need to pay rent and people i had to borrow from this month. Stupid

I am doing some research for a friend who was asked to buy a gift card for her boss. He is an eccentric man who asks people do do random things all the time. She drove very far to get a gift card from Walmart, she’s very stressed so I haven’t gotten the whole story but it sound like she spent $500 on the card. She got the card, and they asked her to take a photo of the card # and send it to them from an email address that looked like it could be one of his secretaries. Turns out it was a scam. Now, both Walmart and her bank refuse to refund her, even though it is now very apparent that it is a scam. Has this happened to anyone else on here? And if so what was your experience? Did anything get resolved?

My husband and I recently recently listed our refrigerator on Craigslist... I guy contacted us and asked if he could send a check for $1800 to pay his movers.. which was strange to me.... now he is saying the Company will only accept pay via amazon gift cards ... and needs pictures of the card with code scratches off to verify ... we’ve cashed the check... it’s been credited to our account ... is this a scam? The check wouldn’t clear if it’s a fraudulent check, right?

This sounds like a scam. When you buy gift cards and send him the gift card codes, he takes control of the gift cards. You lose the (real) money you spent to buy the gift cards. He might have sent you a bad check.

Under federal law, banks usually have to make funds available to you from most checks one business day after you deposit the check. If the check was credited to your account after you deposited it, that doesn't confirm that the check is really good.

It could take weeks for a bank to discover and untangle a forged check. Until the bank confirms that the funds from the check were deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check. If you withdraw money now, and the check turns out to be a fake, you will have to repay the bank all the money you took out.

I’ve gotten a message from what seems a very nice lady and she sent me pics of the same dog but heaps of them, she said she could do PayPal transfer but she can’t as her account got hacked, she never said anything about a life crisis, there’s owners who have brought pets from her who’ve said you can trust her, I’m just really scared. She wants a amazon gift card so she can spend it on her kids. What should I do?


It's hard to believe that anyone would think that the IRS would demand payment in gift cards! Also, the IRS does not call to demand payment. They will send certified letters.

I got contacted by a person on Instagram saying how much are they wanting to be friends and stuff like that we became friends and everything else and all of a sudden I she told me she she’s falling in love with me by my pages and everything else she asked me to send her gift cards from Amazon $100 apiece and then she said she was selling everything that she owns going out to California because she supposed to be doing some kind of contract that they do some kind of machinery from two different countries something about transferring money for some machinery is but something tells me that this person is a scammer keeps hounding me for gift cards what should I do ?

Hello I got a call today about a personal loan I was approved for. They say in order for me to receive my loan and because of my low credit score I need to allow this koan company to deposit money into my account. Then go to a store that sell steam cards and return that money at no cost to me. Now I think this is a little fishy and I was trying to find out info for this. Is this a money laundering scam or what?...could they be legit? Please get back to me about this ASAP

When someone asks you to pay with a gift card, it's a scam.

Here's how the scam often goes: A scammer says he'll put money in your account, and tells you to buy a gift card. You buy the gift card with real money, and give him the code. He takes the gift card and disappears. But then, you find out that he deposited a bad check in your account, and you really don't have the money he promised to give you.

Received a call from someone by the name Bob of PG&E saying my bill was pass due and needed to send them $1,500 or else my power would be cut within the hour. Caller ID said his name was Jameil Ashkoff phone number (818)813-6598. Asked to make the payment with a prepaid card, obvious scam did not send anything.

I stupidly bought $700 worth of iTunes gift cards when I was told that my Visa card had been denied (around my 3 year old sons birthday). As I’m sure you can guess, it was a scam and I never received the products that I “paid” for. I knew it was stupid when I was doing it, but I did it anyway. Lesson learned!

My son was scammed a few weeks ago through FaceBook messenger. He has a brain disorder and lacks insight, so when a messenger contacted him and told him he won $150,000 but that he needed to buy two $500 gift cards and send them a picture of the pin number. They told him not to tell his parents or anyone. Also had the profile pic of an elderly woman contact him to say she won too and was so excited. By the afternoon when I came home from work he looked like he had the life sucked out of him and I was able to get him to tell me why. I had him call Amazon immediately, we spoke to their fraud department who said everything would be okay even though the cards had been hit up already and had zero balances. I called them again and they said they would look into it as I pointed out the fact that they should have enough time to track which account it went to and to cancel whatever purchases were made, therefore reimbursing my son in the form of another gift card if that was all they could do. Amazon said they would contact us in a few days, sent an email that weekend saying, "we can't talk about details in this email due to privacy matters, but call us and we can discuss. You will be very happy at the end of the call". We called, then they said call us back in a few days, we're still investigating. Then got an email from Amazon again basically saying "Sorry, we're sorry you got scammed like this, but we can't help you." I plan on filing a report everywhere I can. Amazon had plenty of time to stop their transaction as we contacted them roughly 6 hours later.

Please report this to the FTC at The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations. The comments you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

If you need to report a scam to Amazon, call 1-888-280-4331.

I was suckered by a company called Cash Advance, wanting to give me a loan. BUT they deposited thousands of dollars into my credit card in order for me to by gift cards in order to raise my credit.... Help! I bought them cards, but they will not give me the weird...they gave me money for cards???

You can't raise your credit score by buying things with your credit card. Whoever said that was lying. Scammers lie to you so they can take your money.

Scammers say they'll put money on your credit card. It looks like they added money, so you buy gift cards, and send the card (or the codes) to the scammer. Then, the scammer reverses the payment he made on your credit card, or the credit card company finds out the scammer paid with a bad check. Your credit card really is NOT paid off, and you have more debt because you bought gift cards for the scammer.


Ok....I'm just wondering if this is related. My idiot soon to be ex husband has been sending Amazon gift cards to a woman he met online. They txt each other everyday but it's by a txt now # & she has never video chatted. Can u say, "How stupid can he be?"But why would she(?)ask for gift cards as well?

My grandparents got scammed for EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS yesterday. The guy called them and said I was in jail and needed bail money. They were scared and listened to his every word. What a pitiful human being.


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