Scammers prefer gift cards, but not just any card will do

gift cards are an easy means to give. Reports to the FTC ’ second Consumer Sentinel show they ’ ra besides an easy way to take. About one in four people who report losing money to fraud say it happened when a swindler tricked them into giving the numbers on the back of a give card. 1 endow cards are far more frequently reported than any early requital method for imposter, 2 and the numbers have reached staggering new highs compared to past years. 3 In the first nine months of 2021 alone, about 40,000 people reported $ 148 million stolen using endowment cards. And because the huge majority of frauds are not reported to the government, this reflects lone a divide of the damage these scams cause. 4
Scammers tell people to go to a specific store and buy a specific gift card. Scammers favor endow cards because they are easy for people to find and buy, and they have fewer protections for buyers compared to some other payment options. Scammers can get quick cash, the transaction is largely irreversible, and they can remain anonymous .
According to reports received by the FTC, scams demanding give cards most much start with a call call from person impersonating a well-known business or government authority. 5 many people report that a swindler put as Amazon or Apple told them to send pictures of the numbers on give cards to fix a presuppose security problem with their account. sometimes they call those numbers “ security codes. ” But the only thing the numbers are good for is taking the money on the batting order. other people report that a swindler claim to be the Social Security Administration said their bank accounts would be frozen as part of an investigation. They ’ ra tell to buy give cards to avoid catch or to secure access to their money. Reports besides show that scammers asking for endow cards pretend to be a love sake, employer, sweepstakes or lottery ship’s company, or kin member in trouble .
Top Gift Card Brands Whatever the floor, reports show that scammers don ’ triiodothyronine settle for just any menu – they tell people the specific endowment tease brands to buy. In the beginning nine months of 2021, over twice arsenic much money was reported lost on Target endowment cards than any other mark. Google Play giving cards were following, followed by Apple, eBay, and Walmart cards.

Scammers besides tell people where to buy the give cards. In the beginning nine months of 2021, people who reported losing money buying give cards mentioned Target stores more than other retailers. Reports suggest that Walmart, Best Buy, CVS, and Walgreens stores are besides popular with scammers .
Scammers use lots of tricks to avoid detection. People often say the swindler sent them to several shop locations to make multiple purchases. Scammers tell people to stay on the phone with the swindler the entire fourth dimension – a trick to make certain they don ’ thyroxine call anyone who might help. Scammers even coach people on what to say if a teller ask questions ; they don ’ triiodothyronine want anyone to stop the scam, and they know shop employees are much the merely people who can help .
Both the number of reported endowment batting order scam and total losses have increased every year since 2018. 6 Losses are surely up ascribable to the higher total of reports, but individuals besides report that they ’ rhenium losing a distribute more money. In fact, losses of $ 5,000 or more have increased from about 8 % of reports in 2018 to about 14 % in the first gear nine months of 2021. Over the same time period, median reported losses increased from $ 700 to $ 1,000 .
Reports of Gift Card Scams
Losses besides vary by card brand. aim cards, for exercise, saw a median report passing of $ 2,500 in the beginning nine months of the class, far higher than early frequently reported cards. 7 In summation, 30 % of people who paid with a Target circuit board said they lost $ 5,000 or more. 8
Whenever person demands to be paid with a endowment card, that ’ s a victimize. It ’ s good that simple. endow cards are for gifts, not for payments. If person convinced you to give them the numbers on a give card or send them a photograph, attend onto the card and your receipt, and report it to the card issuer right away. You ’ ll find contact information for some major give cards at then report your experience to the FTC at

If you ’ re a retailer, or submit or local law enforcement, and you ’ re concern in helping your customers and neighbors avoid giving card scams, visit to download, print, and contribution materials in your store and residential district .

1 From January 2018 through September 2021, 26.6 % of consumers who reported losing money to imposter indicated the money was taken using endow cards or reload cards. From January 2021 through September 2021, this design was 26.1 %. Reports that do not indicate a method of payment are excluded. These figures and figures throughout this Spotlight are based on fraud reports directly to the FTC indicating endow menu or reload card as the method acting of payment. Fraud reports classified as “ on-line shop ” are excluded here and throughout this Spotlight because of the legitimate consumption of give cards among big retailers .
2 Gift cards were the most frequently reported payment method for imposter in 2018, 2019, 2020, and in the first nine months of 2021. From January 2018 through September 2021, the second most frequently reported payment method acting was credit cards. From January 2021 through September 2021, the second most frequently reported requital method acting was cryptocurrency .
3 From January 2021 through September 2021, 39,263 reports indicating $ 147.8 million in endow card and reload card payments were submitted, compared to 36,682 reports indicating $ 115.1 million in reported endow card payments in all of 2020. Earlier year figures for comparison purposes are as follows : 35,323 reports with $ 100 million reported lost ( 2019 ), 32,084 reports with $ 70.6 million reported lost ( 2018 ) .
4 See Anderson, K. B., To Whom Do Victims of Mass-Market Consumer Fraud Complain ? at 1 ( May 2021 ), available at hypertext transfer protocol : // ? abstract_id=3852323 ( discipline showed alone 4.8 % of people who experienced mass-market consumer fraud complained to a Better Business Bureau ( “ BBB ” ) or a government entity ) .
5 From January 2021 through September 2021, 12,239 people reported losing $ 35.5 million to business impersonators using give cards, and 7,844 people reported losing $ 39.6 million to government impersonators using endow cards. Excluding reports that did not indicate a contact method acting, a call call was the method acting of contact in 37 % of reports indicating gift cards as the method acting of payment, followed by e-mail ( 18 % ) and social media ( 16 % ).

6 See footnote 3 .
7 The median person reported losses from January 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021 by gift card brand are as follows : target ( $ 2,500 ), Walmart ( $ 1,380 ), Apple ( $ 800 ), eBay ( $ 600 ), and Google Play ( $ 500 ). median individual losses are based on the total loss reported by the consumer, which much includes more than one endowment card buy .
8 The percentage of reports from January 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021 indicating a passing of $ 5,000 or more by gift poster brand are as follows : aim ( 30 % ), Apple ( 13 % ), Walmart ( 12 % ), Google Play ( 6 % ), and eBay ( 3 % ). Of the $ 148 million reported lost to gift poster scam during this period, $ 111 million were losses reported by people who reported a loss of $ 5,000 or more .

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