How do they do it? #
Most people report that a scammer claiming to be the Social Security Administration said their bank accounts would be frozen as part of an investigation. They’re told to buy gift cards to avoid arrest or to secure access to their money. Reports also show that scammers asking for gift cards pretend to be a love interest, employer, sweepstakes or lottery company, or family member in trouble. The most common way people fall victim to this type of scam is by a simple phone call or a Whatsapp/SMS by an unidentified number.
Your phone rings and you answer. On the line is a scammer impersonating a well-known business or government authority. And he or she is telling you that a Nigerian Prince just found out you are the sole remaining family member of is a royal bloodline and wants to pass his inheritance to you. All you need to do is send him your info and a $100 Apple gift card so he can begin the transaction. But every time, there’s a small issue, and he’ll need another $100 gift card, then another and before you know it, you’ve sent him about $1000 worth of gift card without getting anything in return.
The story may sound silly, but more and more people are falling victim to them. Most of the victims are elderly or simply put very naive people.
But why gift cards? #
Scammers favor gift 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. These scammers will always ask you for a specific type of gift card and where to buy them.
Whenever someone demands to be paid with a gift card, that’s a scam. It’s just that simple. Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. If someone convinced you to give them the numbers on a gift card or send them a photo, hang onto the card and your receipt, and report it to the card issuer right away. You’ll find contact information for some major gift cards at ftc.gov/giftcards. Then report your experience to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.