According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Complaint Center, thousands of people fall victim to holiday scams. One of the main most common of these scams is Gift card Scams. To help you get the most out of your Christmas shopping this year, we’ve put together a buyer’s guide for gift cards.
How Gift Card Scams Work
A few weeks before Black Friday, you might notice that gift cards are being sold at different online marketplaces for significantly lower prices. They use the name of giant retailers and since they’re often stolen from the original owners, these gift cards will be reported lost. Thus, the card gets disabled. If you were tricked into buying them, you’ll end up spending your money for nothing.
You may also receive gift cards as a present from colleagues or friends. Then, you’ll use the card, thinking that it has funds. However, you’ll be surprised to know it’s been declined. Even your friend or colleague may not be aware that before purchasing the card at a retail store, a scammer quickly took it out from the rack and got the card number and security codes. So, when the card was activated, they already used it to purchase different items online.
Gift card scams also happen on auction sites. While you prefer to use your credit card in making a purchase, some sellers will urge you to buy a prepaid gift card from well-known retailers. These include Walmart and Amazon.
Then, if you make the mistake of providing the gift card number and PIN, there’s no way for you to get your money back. Gift cards are scammers’ favorite because they are difficult to trace.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, gift cards are meant as gifts and not used as payments. So, if you encounter a seller forcing you to pay by gift card, then you’re most likely dealing with a scammer.
How To Avoid Gift Card Scams During Black Friday
While Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, it’s also a peak time for scammers. So learn to avoid gift card scams with these steps:
- Thoroughly inspect the gift card before purchasing it. Make sure that the protective stickers remain intact and the security codes on the back of the card were not scratched off. If you see any problems, report them to the store and get another card.
- Only purchase gift cards from credible sources. Avoid buying them at online auction sites as they may be stolen.
- Carefully read the terms and conditions. Check if there’s an expiration date and if there are fees for using the card.
- If you got a gift card as a present, change the security code and register it immediately. Use the card as soon as possible, so scammers won’t have a chance to steal the funds.
- Do not share your gift card number or PIN.
- Avoid buying excessively cheap gift cards. They’re most probably stolen from the real owner.
- To make it easier for you to report a lost gift card, keep the receipt or the card’s ID number.
- Keep your computer protected. Scammers might hack your computer and get your gift card numbers and PINs. So, update your security software and use hard-to-guess passwords. It’s also best to use multi-factor authentication for an added layer of protection.
- Do not open suspicious links. Some scammers will urge you to visit a link to get a free pre-loaded gift card. However, you’ll be taken to a site that asks for your personal information. Others may contain malware that will damage your device.
- If you encounter someone demanding you to pay using gift cards, report them to the FTC. Doing so will help the agency prevent further scams.
Look Out for Gift Card Scams With Social Catfish
Black Friday is indeed an exciting holiday shopping season. However, you should be extra careful to avoid a terrible shopping experience. If you think you’re talking to a fake seller, take advantage of our reverse name search to find out their identity!