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Scammers demand gift cards

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Gift cards are a great way to give a gift. But did you know they are also a scammer’s favorite way to steal money? According to the FTC’s new Data Spotlight, more scammers are demanding payment with a gift card than ever before – a whopping 270 percent increase since 2015.Gift cards and reload cards are the #1 payment method for imposter scams. More scammers are demanding payment with a gift card. The percentage of consumers who told the FTC they paid a scammer with a gift card has increased 270% since 2015. Reports to the FTC say scammers are telling people to buy gift cards at Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS and other retail shops. 42% of people who paid a scammer with a gift card used iTunes or Google Play. Federal Trade Commission.

Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. If someone calls with urgent news or a convincing story and then pressures you to pay them by buying a gift card, like an iTunes or Google Play card, and then giving them the codes on the back of the card – stop. It’s a scam.

Gift cards are the number one payment method that imposters demand. They might pose as IRS officials and say you’re in trouble for not paying taxes; or a family member with an emergency; or a public utility company threatening to shut off your water; or even a servicemember selling something before deployment. Or they might call with great news – you’ve won a contest or a prize! But to get it, you need to pay fees with a gift card. Scammers will say anything to get your money. And they know how to play into your fears, hopes, or sympathies. They like gift cards because, once they’ve got the code on the back, the money is gone and almost impossible to trace. But knowing how these scams work can help you avoid them, and you can help even more by passing on the information to people you know.


If you paid a scammer with a gift card, report it as soon as possible. Call the card company and tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Here is contact information for some of the gift card companies that scammers use most often. Then, tell the FTC about it – or any other scam – at Your reports may help law enforcement agencies launch investigations that could stop imposters and other fraudsters in their tracks.

Report Scams


  • Call 1 (888) 280-4331
  • Learn about about Amazon gift card scams here.

Google Play

  • Call 1 (855) 466-4438
  • Report gift card scams online here.
  • Learn about Google Play gift card scams here.


  • Call 1 (800) 275-2273 then press “6” for other, then say “operator” to be connected to a live representative.
  • Learn about iTunes gift card scams and how to report them here.


  • If you have a Steam account, you can report gift card scams online here.
  • Learn about Steam gift card scams here.


  • Call 1 (866) 795-7969
  • Report a MoneyPak card scam online here.
Tagged with: gift cards, imposter, scam
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


When someone harasses you and threatens you over the phone, you can take steps to protect yourself. You could ask your son if there's a way to block certain phone numbers from ringing on your phone. You could call your phone service and tell them about the threatening calls and ask for help.

You could ask someone at the bank to help you protect your accounts.

You don't have to answer the phone when it rings. You can let people leave a message and call them back later when you feel ready. Scammers act really pushy and threaten people and try to make them act right now. They make up stories and try to make people feel bad for them. You can take steps to protect your money, and stop hearing the threats and harassment.

If you need more ideas, write to us again.

I was involved in a scam few months ago sending cards through for a crude oil company..

The newest approach is the scammer gets access to organization web sites, goes through the board members list either through it being posted on the club web site or via a club newsletter. They pretend to be the president of that club and send emails to it's board members, using proper first names. They ask for help, usually saying they are really in a time crunch but have to get some gift cards as donations for a club event, and they want you to do it because they don't have the time to get to it. Be very aware of the email address they are sending from. It will be different than the actual email address from said real person.

My mom was scammed out of about$10k from an online computer security guy. He claimed to be able to solve the over 150 hacking attempts on her computer. He remotes in and took over her gmail account and even forwarded all her incomeing mail to some ‘applecare5050@ account. Well I was able to solve the computer parts but not the almost 15 different transactions that her American Express card allowed to go thru. Now I just hope we can dispute some of these. I know the likelihood is slim, but Amex’s system should have flagged these transactions after the first couple. Just hoping for some resolution.

Amazon does NOT help in this situation. My mother was scammed out of $1200, Amazon didn't catch the scammers until they used $1000 despite the fact that my mom maid a claim well before this money was used. They are giving her $200.

Someone sent out a text to the agents in my office making it look like it was me and told them I was in a meeting and needed them to go buy a gift card for me. One agent called the office to talk to me and I was doing some training, so when they told her I was in a meeting, she thought the text was legitimate and that I needed the card for the meeting. The texter was texting her to hurry and what is taking her so long. She just showed up in the office with a $500 gift card for Nordstrom Rack which is non-refundable

Happened to me today. I was very busy at work when a email came in from my uncle asking for gift card numbers for another relatives birthday today. It came from HIS email so I thought nothing of it. Walked down to Walgreens bought 300.00 in gift cards. Scratched them off and sent the numbers off to him via email. 5 minutes later text from my wife saying uncles email was hacked. Should've known better, lesson learned.

Yesterday morning my husband got a call from those scammers saying that his SSN was involved in drug abuse in texas, if he didn’t cooperate with them they might issue arrest warrant against him. He got really scared and followed what they said, they asked him to use all his money to buy gift cards for them and at the end they would return him the cashiers check in the SSA office. My poor husband fell into the trap and lost 10,000$ to those scammers. Now we are left with no money. What should we do?

Some guy bought my controller for twenty, then asked for a 300 dollar steam card for their nephew, stopped responding when i said i couldnt give them the money. Even had a fake paypal email sent to me

I met a guy on Instagram and he works out on the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. We have been talking for months now and we switched from Instagram to Hangouts because he said it was easier to talk back and forth. Today he contacted me and asked for an Amazon gift card for $100. I purchased the gift card and took a picture of the back of the card like he told me. He then said he needed to receipt from the store I purchased it but I had thrown it away.
He got angry and said he needed the receipt from store before he could use the card. I have a sick feeling in my stomach that it is a scam and that he is not who he says he is.
Why would he need the receipt from the store in order to use the card?

This girl is located in Nigeria. She met me on this dating and marriage website. she ask and tell me to buy her $100 gift card so she can upgrade her ipad so she can download apps and much more. I think this is also a scam because you don't need gift cards to download apps on ipad. most apps are free on ipad and iPhone. I downloaded WhatsApp on my iPhone for free. if something similar come up to you like this, do not fall for it.

I have just gotten direct messages and then texted by a huge “star” who flirted for awhile after a just responded a quick tweet back to his comment. In a few days he asked for amazon and iTunes cards. He is really good and and sweet and says we will get together when the time is right. We have been talking for about a month, I sent one card and he wants more, I keep saying if you are so wealthy(1.5m) why in the world do you need this from me. The answers sound like bs, but he got me once and he is really really good, playing into my insecurities and using his own

Scammers have been calling me for 2 days as I have been trolling them like crazy, but they are very persistent so I keep talking to them we must gave spent 3 hours over the phone by now.

I never say the word no and as I am about to give them money a " last minute unexpected problem" takes place all the close...yet so far. Lol.

Will they give up ? I am not going to as I find this entertaining and I am keeping them busy from scamming someone else.

Thanks for sharing this information with us to protect us from scammers. Keep up the good work.

thay said thay were my cousin and of i wamted free monny to go by a 30
00 amzon card.i told them o couldnt do this becouse i was broke thay want me to get in contact with them threw texing them.i am not send them nothing

Game stop gift cards scam. But when you try to report it right away your on hold for 40 mins . Also , the phone # they contacted me with 3 times was a legit Apple phone #. As I checked using a land line during the scam . I’m still out $800 even after calling my bank , Apple and trying to call game stop right away.. very disappointing to someone trying to get by living off of a retirement check . in my opinion , if these low life scammers can find ways to scam using legitimate customer service numbers I find if very difficult to believe that these billion dollar companies can and will not find ways to at least protect consumers from scammers by protecting their own damn customer service telephone numbers or, is it still all about the bottom line. They still get paid and I can’t afford my medication this month etc . I really don’t think they care .

Exactly!! it is horrible.

they got me on Monday for $3300. I received a call from a woman saying she was from the social security administration. The only reason i beleived was that almost two weeks prior to my credit and debit cards were stolen from work and my social security card was in there. I filed a police report that same day but nothing came of it, I called the 3 credit bureaus to make sure my credit hadn't been compromised and they all asked for account numbers I didn't have cause I had shut down my account to get new cards. so when the woman called and told me a vehicle was found at the Texas border with cocaine in it and was registered under my social security numer I believed her, cause I already feared it was compromised by the person who stole my cards. Long story short I purchased target and sams club gift cards and gave them the pin cause they said my funds had to be approved by the federal government and now I am screwed. I have contacted everyone I possibly could, it is an awful feeling. More definitely has to be done about these situations. It just can't be a "be more aware next time" cause where does that leave us? Some people might say I was stupid but when you have your credit and debit cards stolen and your social security card was amongst them, everyone here knows the power of SSN it can be used to ruin your life. So when you get told that happened, your first thought is "how do I fix this?" Be more understanding, it could happen to anyone.

I have had several people try to do this type of scam on me. It always starts out as someone who is interested in getting to know me to form a relationship. I am naturally very skeptical of anyone who wants money from me in any form. I always say things like "I bet you're going to ask for an iTunes gift card aren't you? I mean this is just silly why would you target me of all the billions of people on facebook? It just seems incredibly unlikely that you stumbled upon my profile and thought I'd be a great love interest." They usually back off after I call them out. If not I get the demands and name calling, once that happens I block them and report them to FTC. It is just that easy. Strangers do not need your money, strangers that are pretending to be family are really pathetic. If a "family member" calls you and asks for money, contact them personally or someone who knows them. Chances are it is not them, it is a scam. More or less DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSANCES give anyone a gift card that is not a gift for an occasion, and if you do give gift cards hand them the card in person.

my grandmother was just told by a friend, someone she trusts that if she purchases $800 in steam gift cards and mails them to this company that she will get $100,000, i'm afraid that she was just scammed. She did this without telling anyone in the family.

My elderly father-in-law has been and continues to be scammed for more than $30,000 over the past year and a half in a Nigerian romance scam. That's 300 Amazon $100-gift cards he has had to buy and he lives in a small town. He's still convinced he's sending money to try to help this "woman" get out of Lagos and continues to send gift cards even though everyone has told him it's a scam. I have contacted the local sheriff's office and was told they can't do anything about it. I have filed 2 complaints with the FTC and FBI but haven't heard from either of them. He texts pictures of the back of the cards and the receipts. He has every Amazon card and receipt he's sent to them. We've shown him all of the websites about these scammers. We even found the identify of the person's picture they stole from the internet and using as their profile picture. It was a porn star's picture. But we can't convince him that it's a scam. "She" told him she used to be a model and he believed her. He thinks this beautiful young woman is in love with him and trying to get here to marry him. "She" has made about 4 "attempts" to get here but, of course, there's always some obstacle out of her control that prevents "her" from getting here. He's shut almost everyone out of his life because he doesn't want to hear it anymore. It's totally frustrating. You can't report it to Amazon because the cards are not linked to an Amazon account. These companies should find a better system for gift cards or they should have a better way of reporting them as fraudulent and be able to stop them from being able to use them, like a stop payment on a check or something. They have to be aware their cards are being used for scams. I think if a law enforcement agency told him it was a scam, he might listen to them, but we haven't been able to get anyone's attention.

You may want to call the sheriff again and ask them to visit your father-in-law for a wellness check. You can say you think he's a victim of elder financial exploitation.

You can also find social service agencies near your father-in-law on the federal ElderCare Locator  - search by zip code. You can reach people who work on aging, financial abuse, and legal services. If you need other contacts, send a copy of this email to

Theres a woman going around posing as a marine rifleman on several dating apps demanding to link accounts wit hers and also asking for steam and itunes cards as payments as well will send money into your account and if you dont pay the money she sent you that scammer threatens you to have u arrested by fbi for fraud activity...

I was told I was approved for a loan through Lending Tree, emailed paperwork, texted back and forth, calls at the same time, got over 400 dollars put into my account, then to refund the FTCs money they wanted me ti go to Walgreen's and buy Amazon gift cards. I don't know what to do or who to call. I have changed the information I gave them for my account except the account numbers.


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