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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


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.

t'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.

Hi! I recently was offered a job offer that sounded too good to be true. I spent hours making a perfect resume, headshot, cover letter and answered all the questions in a professional manner. I was put off by the horrible grammar and quick responses. But then they told me I had to have certain licenses to work for a cannabis company in Canada which would cost $540 through a Walmart gift card. They used ‘Canna Farms’ as their front which is located in Hope, British Columbia. I am keeping “Jonathan Cannon” on the hook. What do I do to get him/her or them caught?

How do I report someone while I still have them convinced they will get money?

Yea I’m with you, I one right now that I have been playing for three days now. But been talking to him for 2 to 3 weeks before he go to we’re he ask for the card, the card just came about 2 days ago. He is waiting for me to go get the card and send him pic of the numbers well I went to Walmart mart got a blank card and is making him wait, he wants this he gets it on my terms, but wanted to report before, so they can catch hopefully. But not sure how to do this, but scammers might scam but I can scam back when I know are fell I’m being scammed, so I have made him feel, as he has stole my heart and I’m all into him, all awhile playing him, now like I said he has ask for the card so I haven’t sent nothing yet, I probably will play a little while longer, just to see how mad he can get, so those that don’t know this stuff all I say is be careful it’s crazy how they play people’s feelings

Playing with one now wants game cards to back up phone for job
Where was your guy. On an oil rig in the gulf.

Was his name Pater Daryl?

I was scammed with a friend that wasn’t her it was someone else the friend ask about if Heared a company called heard about the federal government new grant support I said no she give me the info and then I apply and then I got hold of agent and he asked me how much I am going to pay I tell him 1,000.00 but I I Only pay four hundred and he and send steam card he told me they been used and still want me to pay

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

So did I and I went and then I started asking questions because it seemed sketch and the lady started like raising her voice saying I already told you not a scam and going crazy I said nvm I don’t want to do it and she said you will be charged and penalized and I hung up and blocked the number ASAP

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

OMG i have that happen to just 3 days ago and he still waiting for me to pay for it.

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?

I can’t believe how stupid i was to think a loan company that asked me to buy google play cards. Long story short, I bought 7 steam cards $100 each. I then was told I needed to get $700 more for insurancepurposes. It finally hit me, I told them to stick it. I asked for my &900 back and guess what?....:they won’t. Is there any way to get my money back from these cards??? I am in dire need to get that back. Can I do anything at all???

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

this just happened to me ! ive been thinking about it all day since the morning because the company sent me 375$ and asked me to return it by tomorrow with google play cards and then ill get my loan and i did return the cash with cards , then after he said thats all i meeded to do . i called back amd said when will i get my loan and he said "we have to work on your credit now, so what we are going to do now is make sure you do another verification code test for a larger amount and this will allow us to bypass your credit score results ." and at first i said okay fine i guess im not in a hurry for the loan , but then i told my partner about it and she told me it all sounds to fishy! and to do reseach on the company and theyre nowhere to be found onlineand everytime i call theres not a voice machine before the answer and its always the same man ! plus they deposited the checks through online banking app and my bank notifies me when i have a unverified mobile checking my account and its an android phone not a computer plus they sign my name in the back of the checks like of it was me without my permission that i signed it ! what do i do ???

This literally just happened to me. I didn’t return the money. I told them I didn’t want to go through with it any longer. I got an email saying I was approved for a loan that I applied for online.. then some one tried today told me to pay a registration fee of $150 that’s refundable and that I would get it back with the loan.

I got the same thing they told me I needed to get registered through steam and it cost 150 then the money would be refunded back to me and when I told her steam was a gift card not a government registration card and did I register when I applied for the load and she had no answer

What did you do with the money?

I totally agree with you on that, it has happened to me more than once, about loans and no money deposited into my account or mailed to me. I'm trying to figure out how can get my loans or my money back from purchasing those girls cards too

So this just happened to me. Did you get your money back from Google and if so how long did it take?

I just bought $1100 worth of GameStop cards with there money and they said they had to work on the credit score more so they will call in the morning to deposit more into the account. I’m going to let them deposit it and more and then don’t answer

I’ve figured out the scam now but too late. It’s not their money that they Are depositing into your bank. It’s your money if you look deeper. They are filing false disputes on your account and your bank is putting the money in your account. Scammers

Same has happened to me been asked to repay in Amazon gift cards

Did they want you to purchase gift cards? How were they going to get $ from you?

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

Just happened to me. $400 in Amazon gift cards. Gone. Yes I'm stupid but mine involved the purchase of a pet and has been emotional for my kids. We were victimized yet Amazon still gets the money. Protect able to access that card and see where the funds went and to whom.

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.

Its not a Win Win situation. The scammers use these gift cards to purchase physical products through websites, then they return the products for cash back. The retailer is never making money off of these. These people aren't doing these scams to buy products. Its the cash they want. The other thing these scammers do is use websites that give you cash for gift cards. Once the website give the person cash, the retailer then pays the website for the full value. If you do your research, you'll find that all of the consumer messaging around these scams are being instituted and payed for by the retailers that are most often used for gift card scams. If you want to see how serious these retailers are taking this issue, try walking in to one and ask to buy three $1000 dollar gift cards. Many of the retailers will now ask you if you were asked to buy them by someone else or they won't sell them to you if they suspect you're getting scammed. Lastly, they can't start giving people refunds no matter how wealthy the company is, just because you say you got scammed. Once you start that behavior, you'll have thousands of people buying gift cards for themselves then saying they got scammed. Theres no way to know who's telling the truth about their situation.
Spending time blaming retailers because you got scammed is not helping to solve this situation. You should be spending your time teaching others how not to get scammed. Write about your situation in community newsletters, forums and other venues. Some have even made youtube videos about it.

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.


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