Gift cards are a very fashionable and convenient method to give a present this holiday season to your folks or family, but they may also be a goal for scammers who need to steal your money or personal information.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) 50% more people reported gift card fraud this 12 months in comparison with last 12 months.
So, what are the sneaky tricks scammers and hackers are using to deceive you? How do you see their awful tricks and avoid them? Here are the five commonest gift card scams aimed toward you this time of 12 months.
1. Display rack gift card trick
One of the most recent gift card tricks involves tampering with the gift cards on the display racks at retail stores. Scammers will record the activation code on the cardboard or place a custom bar code sticker over the true bar code, which allows them to secretly load the money onto their very own card immediately after you buy the gift card. This signifies that whenever you or your recipient try to make use of the gift card, it is going to be empty or invalid.
How to avoid this scam
Check the packaging of the gift card before buying it. Look for signs of tampering, akin to the wrapping being torn or resealed, or stickers placed over the bar code or card number. Also, select a card from the back of the rack, as scammers often place their fraudulent cards on the front of the display.
2. Impersonation gift card trick
Another common gift card trick scammers use involves impersonating someone you already know or trust, akin to a member of the family, a romantic interest, an organization or the federal government. Scammers will contact you by phone, text, email or social media and create a fake story or emergency that requires you to send them money urgently.
They will ask you to purchase a present card or multiple gift cards after which send them a photograph of the cardboard or the numbers on the back of the cardboard. Once they’ve the gift card information, they are going to disappear along with your money and cut off contact.
How to avoid this scam
Never send money or gift cards to anyone you don’t know personally or haven’t met in person. If someone claims to be someone you already know or trust, confirm their identity by contacting them directly through a unique channel.
Don’t trust caller ID, as scammers can spoof phone numbers. Don’t be pressured by threats or guarantees, as scammers use emotional manipulation to get you to act quickly and without considering. And remember, no legitimate company or government agency will ever ask you to pay them with a present card.
3. Resale gift card trick
Another gift card trick involves buying or selling gift cards on online platforms, akin to web sites, apps or social media groups. Scammers will offer to sell you gift cards at a reduced price or buy your unwanted gift cards for money.
However, they are going to either send you a fake or empty gift card or take your gift card information and money without sending you anything in return. They can also use stolen bank cards or hacked accounts to purchase or sell gift cards, which might put you liable to fraud or identity theft.
How to avoid this scam
Only buy or sell gift cards from reputable sources, akin to official retailers, authorized resellers or trusted family and friends. Avoid buying or selling gift cards from strangers online, especially in the event that they offer a deal that sounds too good to be true.
Don’t share your gift card information or personal details with anyone you don’t know or trust. And use a secure payment method that gives protection, akin to a bank card or PayPal, as an alternative of a present card, wire transfer or money.
4. Phishing gift card trick
A very fashionable gift card trick this holiday season involves phishing, which is a style of online fraud that tries to trick you into revealing your personal or financial information. Scammers will send you an email, text or pop-up message that appears prefer it comes from a legitimate company, akin to a retailer, a bank or a tech support service.
They will claim that there’s a problem along with your account, your order, your device or your security and that you should confirm your identity, update your information or fix a problem. They will then ask you to click on a link, open an attachment or call a number after which request that you just pay them with a present card or provide them along with your gift card information.
How to avoid this scam
Never click on links, open attachments or call numbers from unsolicited messages, as they might result in fake or malicious web sites or software. Don’t provide any personal or financial information, akin to your passwords, PINs, account numbers or gift card numbers to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.
Don’t trust messages that create a way of urgency, pressure or fear. They are designed to make you act without considering. If you’ve got any doubts in regards to the legitimacy of a message, contact the corporate directly using a verified website, phone number or email address.
Using antivirus protection will help to guard you against scammers and hackers who attempt to steal your money and private information using gift cards tricks, especially through through phishing.
The best method to protect yourself from clicking on any malicious links, fake web sites and phishing emails and text messages is to have antivirus protection installed and actively running on all of your devices. It’s the very best method to stop and warn you of any malware in your system and ultimately protect you from being hacked.
5. Loyalty program gift card trick
This gift card trick involves loyalty programs, that are rewards programs that supply you points, discounts or freebies for being a loyal customer. Scammers will pretend to be representatives of a loyalty program that you just are a member of or that you just are eligible to affix.
They will inform you that you’ve got won a prize, a sweepstakes or a promotion and that you should pay a fee, a tax or a shipping cost to say it. They will then ask you to pay them with a present card or provide them along with your gift card information.
How to avoid this scam
Be wary of any unsolicited offers or notifications that claim that you’ve got won something, especially in case you don’t remember entering or signing up for anything. Don’t pay any money or fees to receive a prize, as legitimate loyalty programs won’t ever ask you to do this. Don’t provide any personal or financial information, akin to your passwords, account numbers or gift card numbers to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.
Don’t trust messages that create a way of pleasure, curiosity or greed, as they’re designed to make you act impulsively. If you’ve got any doubts in regards to the legitimacy of a message, contact the loyalty program directly using a verified website, phone number or email address.
How to securely give and receive gift cards
- Buy gift cards online as an alternative or physical cards directly from the shop, not third parties. You also can use these favorite sites and apps that can reward you with a refund on all gift card purchases.
- Avoid gift card racks at retail stores just like the food market. If you continue to need to buy one at the shop, dig back into the pile without taking the primary ones off the rack. Inspect them like a detective before you purchase to be certain that they’re unaltered.
- Register the gift card directly with the retailer if offered, which also helps track card balance.
- Never engage in any gift card transactions from callers making unusual claims. It is probably going a scam.
- Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites like eBay.
- Never provide personal financial information beyond a technique of payment to anyone offering gift cards in-store or online.
- Use antivirus protection. An effective antivirus software is vital to guard against scammers and hackers who attempt to steal your money and private information using gift card tricks, especially through phishing. The best method to protect yourself from clicking on any malicious links, fake web sites and phishing emails and text messages is to have antivirus protection installed and actively running on all of your devices. It’s the very best to assist stop and warn you of any malware in your system and ultimately protect you from being hacked.
I’ve been scammed! What to do next?
Below are some next steps in case you find you or the one you love is a victim of identity theft consequently of a present card trick by scammers or hackers.
1) If you may regain control of your accounts, change your passwords and inform the account provider
2) Look through bank statements and checking account transactions to see where outlier activity began
3) Use an Identity Theft protection service: Identity Theft corporations can monitor personal information like your Social Security Number, phone number and email address and warn you whether it is being sold on the dark web or getting used to open an account. They also can assist you in freezing your bank and bank card accounts to stop further unauthorized use by criminals. See my review for Best identity theft protection services 2023 here.
4) Report any breaches to official government agencies just like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the gift card company.
5) Get the skilled advice of a lawyer before chatting with law enforcement, especially if you end up coping with criminal identity theft and if being a victim of criminal identity theft leaves you unable to secure employment or housing.
6) Alert all three major credit bureaus and possibly place a fraud alert in your credit report.
7) Run your individual background check or request a replica of 1 if that’s the way you discovered your information has been utilized by a criminal.
If you might be a victim of identity theft due to a present card scam, an important thing to do is to take immediate motion to mitigate the damage and forestall further harm.
Kurt’s key takeaways
Gift card scams are a serious and growing problem that could cause you to lose money, personal information or each. However, you may protect yourself and your family members by being aware of the common sorts of gift card scams we outlined and by following the straightforward suggestions to identify them and avoid them.