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.

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

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.

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.

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...

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.

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 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 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.


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