(HorizonPost.com) – The holiday season often brings joy, but it also comes with a surge in gift card scams. These scams have increased by a staggering 50 percent compared to last year, according to an investigation by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Scammers now prefer gift cards as payment due to their untraceable nature, which leaves unsuspecting individuals vulnerable to fraudulent schemes. As experts caution, treat gift cards with the same caution you would handle cash since once the card information is in the wrong hands, tracing it becomes almost impossible.
Whether it’s a call from someone posing as a government employee or an online seller asking for gift card payment, chances are it’s a scam, warns the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Scammers typically use the funds to buy goods and services, possibly legitimate or not, while victims rarely get reimbursed.
Pre-paid debit cards are also a preferred tool for scammers, who use fear and urgency to convince victims to buy, load, and provide them with redemption codes.
The BBB lists some red flags to look out for:
– Online businesses or government agencies requesting gift card payment
– High-pressure calls demanding immediate payment for alleged legal issues or overdue taxes
– Requests for unrelated gift card payments for services or goods
– Anyone asking for a gift card number or PIN via phone or online
– Promises of check reimbursements
– Messages from someone posing as your superior at work asking for gift card purchases
The BBB investigation and the Federal Trade Commission have found that gift card scams have defrauded victims out of around $690 million since January 2020. One victim, identified as Richard from Tempe, Arizona, lost several hundred dollars in a scam where he was duped into believing he was protecting his Amazon account from possible identity theft. In another case, three Los Angeles residents were convicted of laundering over $2.5 million using Target gift cards. The scammers, who posed as government officials, convinced victims to purchase the gift cards to resolve fictitious financial or legal issues.
Retailers are also stepping up to combat the issue. Target, for instance, advises customers to avoid purchasing, selling, or checking gift card balances outside of its official website and to be wary of any gift cards that appear to have tampered packaging.
Amazon, too, has warned its customers about two prevalent scams. The first involves a fraudulent email that appears to be from Amazon, threatening account suspension and prompting users to enter personal details. The second targets Amazon Prime members by claiming a membership issue that must be confirmed or canceled, tricking users into revealing their personal information.
Experts recommend contacting the company directly via an official number or website if you receive suspicious calls, messages, or emails.
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