Salem – The 2023 holiday shopping season is here and the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation (DFR) is reminding people to watch out for financial scams that can target their pocketbook, particularly gift card scams.
Gift card scams often start with a call, text, email, or social media message. Scammers will say anything to get you to buy gift cards – such as Google Play, Apple, or Amazon cards – and hand over the card number and personal identification number (PIN) codes.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, here are some common tactics scammers use:
- Scammers will say it is urgent. They will say to pay them right away or something terrible will happen. They don’t want you to have time to think about what they are saying or talk to someone you trust. Slow down. Don’t pay. It is a scam.
- Scammers will tell you which gift card to buy (and where). They might say to put money on an eBay, Google Play, Target, or Apple gift card. They might send you to a specific store – often Walmart, Target, CVS, or Walgreens. Sometimes, they will tell you to buy cards at several stores, so cashiers will not get suspicious. The scammer also might stay on the phone with you while you go to the store and load money onto the card. If this happens to you, hang up. It is a scam.
- Scammers will ask you for the gift card number and PIN. The card number and PIN on the back of the card lets scammers get the money you loaded onto the card — even if you still have the card itself. Slow down. Don’t give them those numbers or send them a photo of the card. It is a scam.
Scammers tell different stories to get you to buy gift cards so they can steal your money.
- Scammers say they are from the government. They say they are from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, or even the Federal Trade Commission. They say you have to pay taxes or a fine. However, government agencies will not contact you to demand immediate payment, and they never demand payment by gift card. It is a scam.
- Scammers say they are from tech support. They say they are from Microsoft or Apple and there is something wrong with your computer. They ask for remote access and say to pay them to get it fixed. Don’t give them access to your computer. It is a scam.
- Scammers say they are a friend or family member with an emergency. If the scammer uses voice cloning, they may even sound just like your loved one. They ask you to send money right away – but not to tell anyone. It is a scam. If you are worried, contact the friend or relative to check that everything is all right.
- Scammers say you have won a prize. But first, they tell you to pay fees or other charges with a gift card. It is a scam. No honest business or agency will ever make you buy a gift card to pay them for a prize. And did you even enter to win that prize?
- Scammers say they are from your utility company. They threaten to cut off your service if you don’t pay immediately. Utility companies don’t work that way. It is a scam.
- Scammers ask for money after they chat you up on a dating website. Romance scammers will make up any story to trick you into buying a gift card to send them money. Slow down. Never send money or gifts to anyone you have not met in person – even if they send you money first.
- Scammers send a check for way more than you expected. They tell you to deposit the check and give them the difference on a gift card. Don’t do it. It is a scam. That check will be fake and you will be out that money.
To help prevent yourself from getting scammed, DFR offers these reminders:
- Don’t answer unknown numbers – block unwanted calls and text messages.
- Don’t give personal identifying information to unsolicited calls, texts, or emails. Hang up, look up their number, and call them to verify.
- Be skeptical. Ask questions and be wary of offers “too good to be true.”
- Resist the pressure to act immediately. Scammers use urgency as a tool.
- Stop and talk to someone you trust. Talking about it can help you spot the scam.
- Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card, money transfer, or cryptocurrency.
Remember, if it is too good to be true, it probably is.