Everyone loves a gift card for their favorite retailer or restaurant. Unfortunately, scammers also love gift cards, but for all the wrong reasons. Here is what you need to know about gift card scams and how to avoid them.
There are several ways scammers utilize gift cards to con victims out of their money:
The IRS gift card scam. In this scam, a target receives a threatening message that’s allegedly from the IRS and claiming they are at risk of arrest for tax evasion if they do not pay up immediately. However, they insist that payment can only be made in the form of a gift card.
The tech support gift card scam. In this variation, a caller pretends to represent tech support at a recognized company, like Apple or Microsoft. They will insist there is something wrong with the victim’s computer and offer to “assist” in fixing the problem. Payment can be made with a gift card, of course. Lucky for you, there is nothing wrong with your computer, but you have just been targeted by a scam and are at risk of getting tricked.
The sweepstakes gift card scam. Congratulations — you have won a trip to the Bahamas! But first, you have to pay the small processing fee via gift card. Follow directions and you will never see that vacation or the money you spent on the gift card again.
The utility gift card scam. You don’t want your gas or electricity cut off, do you? If you don’t pay up with a gift card, the lights might just go out. They won’t, but if you fall for it, you’ll be out the money you spent on the gift card.
How to spot a gift card scam:
- The IRS will never initiate correspondence by phone call, text message, or email. Instead, they will send a letter to taxpayers through the U.S. postal system.
- No authentic business or government agency will insist on payment by gift card.
- If you don’t recall entering a sweepstakes, chances are you didn’t win it either.
- A caller or message claiming a matter is urgent and demands immediate action is nearly always a scam.
In general, gift cards should be used for purchases or to send as gifts, and not as payments. Also, as with all sensitive information, the numbers on your gift card should never be shared over the phone or online. It is best to only purchase gift cards through reputable sellers or those that have excellent customer reviews and/or offer a cash-back guarantee.
Stay informed with SeaComm’s Fraud Center. As your credit union, we want to keep you and your finances safe. Take advantage of our Fraud Center, which includes valuable resources to help educate and empower our members to protect their assets and identities. Click here to get started.
Make sure to utilize your Benefits Plus® membership as a way to protect yourself from fraudulent activity! Once you have upgraded your basic checking account to a Benefits Plus® checking with SeaComm, you will gain access to a variety of identity theft protection services including fraud alerts, identity theft alerts, and more. If your identity has been compromised, a Benefits Plus® representative will assist in filing police reports and contacting all credit bureaus, as well as utility companies on your behalf. Stop by your local SeaComm branch to upgrade your checking account.
For complete information, terms, conditions and exclusions please visit www.benefits-plus.org or call 866-329-7587.