Gift Cards Are Still a Favorite of Scammers

Your friends and family members may love receiving gift cards, but scammers love them, too. Gift cards are the preferred currency for many criminals as they can easily be converted to cash. And, once the scammers have the numbers off the cards, it is unlikely that you will be able to recover your money.
There are many scams where the bad guys will ask for payment via a gift card. They include: imposters claiming to be from the IRS or a utility company, “tech support” asking ask you to pay to repair your computer, callers claiming to be family members needing cash for an emergency, someone buying something from you who sends a check for more than the purchase price and asks for a refund of the difference by gift card and many more. (Spoiler alert: The ones who overpay by check sent a worthless check.) The nature of these scams can vary, but there is one universal truth: If someone is asking you to pay with a gift card of some kind, it is a sure sign of a scam.
One scam that is popular right now involves a scammer pretending to be representing a religious leader. The scammer asks people to send gift cards for a good cause and will often use the name of a local pastor or other known religious leader.
The scammers act fast to drain the gift cards as soon as they can, but if you act quickly after realizing you have been scammed you may be able to recover at least some of your money. Immediately call the company that issued the gift card (you can find contact information for many of the gift cards most popular with scammers, here) to report the fraud.
Even if you are cautious and believe that you and your family members are unlikely to fall for this type of fraud it is important to stay vigilant as scammers use sophisticated persuasion techniques to try to separate you from your money. Educate yourself, your parents and other family members that government agencies and others will never ask for payment by gift card.