Gift cards top scams list

Gift cards are neat little gifts to give your loved ones during Christmas or on their birthdays, to show them your appreciation. Scammers, though, don’t have such a wholesome view of things. To them, gift cards are a way to make easy money.

Why do scammers ask for gift cards?

You might be wondering: “Why not ask for money directly? Why gift cards?”, and the answer would be: Because gift cards leave almost no evidence that leads back to the scammer.

Traditional payment methods (wire transfer, PayPal, credit card, etc.) require the scammer to have an account and other “bothersome” details. Think about it, it’s much easier to ask for a gift card code using a fake identity than it is to transfer bank account numbers and details back and forth with a victim. Not only that but gift cards come with 0 buyer protection unlike the usual payment methods.

This makes the scammer’s life easier, so you can see why they’d prefer this method.

Okay, what do they do with the code?

Now that the scammer has the code on hand they can do many things with it:

  • Use it on the website it’s associated with (Amazon for example) to buy items for themselves.
  • Resell it for a lower price on the black market.
  • Use it and resell it under the pretense that it has never been used, further scamming more people
  • Create an account on the website that the card can be used on, use the code and then sell the account for the same or lower price.(ex: steam)

What are the types of scams where gift cards are used as payment?

Scammers have come up with many diverse ways to get victims to pay them with card codes, here are some of the most common tactics:

  • Romance scam
  • Sugar daddy/mommy scams
  • Company/Government Impersonation scam
  • Family emergency scam
Let’s look at how each scam works…

The romance scam

This one can start in many ways (online dating site, Instagram, Whats-app, etc.) but it always ends the same way: The scammer asking for a gift card of some sort. If they’re on a dating site, they will approach their victims with fake profiles, with stolen pictures of models and begin sweet-talking the victim into complacency.

Other scammers will contact the victim through some social media sites like Instagram or pretend to have the wrong number and hope to strike a conversation with the victim. If the victim falls for it, the scammer then begins to recite their award-winning script to get their prey interested in them. Further down the line, once they’ve gained the victim’s trust, they will ask for the mythical gift card and run off with it once the code on it is sent to them.

The sugar daddy/mommy scam

These scammers make their victims believe that they are kind-hearted yet lonely benefactors who just want to spoil someone with all their money 🥺 They know how desperate times are for people currently and they prey upon that by promising loads of cash as an allowance.

Some scammers will promise their victims payment after being sent a gift card code. They usually demand it as “proof” of their prey’s loyalty. It’s basically an advance-fee scam.

Others will first try to make their lie convincing by sending fake checks or “paying” the victim’s bills or other expenses. The victim then thinks they’re legit and so when the scammer asks for a gift card they won’t think twice about sending it.

Note: Any payment made by the scammer will be fraudulent and fake:

  • If they send a check, it’s fake and will be either rejected immediately upon use or it will bounce.
  • If they offer bank or PayPal account information for the victim to use, the accounts are stolen.
  • The scammer might send their victim a spoofed email that makes it look like it came from PayPal to “confirm” their end of the bargain.

The Company/Government Impersonation scam

For this scheme, the scammer sends emails pretending to be a well-known company (such as Amazon or Apple) or an official government agent/institution.

In the case of the former, they will sometimes pretend to offer the victim a luxurious-sounding work opportunity at the company, with a dreamy salary and great work hours, in exchange for a few gift cards as an “initiation fee” of some sorts.

Another example is when the scammer pretends to be from a company (say Microsoft) and calls/contacts the victim about a technical issue, and demands to be paid in gift cards to be able to fix it. With a bit of rational thinking, the victim could easily realize that Microsoft or Apple wouldn’t need gift cards as a form of payment and realize that it’s a scam.

If the scammer is pretending to be from the government, they’ll tell their victim some bogus story about some unpaid taxes or a fine of some sort. Usually they pretend to be from the IRS or the Social Security Administration. Most of the time they ask for payment via wire transactions but they will sometimes switch things up and ask for a gift card.

The Family Emergency scam

This nefarious scam targets the elderly most of the time but it can also be directed towards parents or other family members.

This can go in two ways:
  • The scammer contacts their target under the false pretense of being a grandchild/child in distress and in desperate need of help
  • The scammer pretends to be a lawyer who's associated with the child/grandchild of the victim, claiming that they need to be paid so that they can help solve the crisis.
Whatever excuse they use, an unsuspecting victim will fall for it and pay them.

How to avoid Gift Card scams?

So now that we’ve seen the most common types of scams that ask for gift cards, let’s break down the ways they can be avoided:
  • When offered a job, a legitimate employer will not ask for an initiation fee or anything like it that must be paid with gift cards.
  • Always keep your guard up when dealing with strangers, especially online. If you are ever approached by a potential love interest online who claims they can solve all your financial problems- be wary as they could very well be a scammer. Doubly so if they ask for some kind of advance payment or offer account details as discussed previously.
  • Keep in mind that government officials won’t email you to ask you for money or gift cards.
  • The same can be said for renowned companies like Microsoft or Amazon. They wouldn’t be emailing or calling their customers about tech problems and asking for cards as payment. Only scammers would.
  • If you receive a text or email from someone who claims to be your relative and asks you to buy a gift card and send them a code, it’s fair to assume it’s a scammer trying to dupe you. Before making any hasty decisions, call the person they’re pretending to be or their spouse/partner(if they have one) and see if they’re okay.

How to report a Gift Card scam?

If you’ve paid a scammer using a gift card you must immediately report the scam to the company that made the card. Be sure to keep the card and the receipt for it as well as any other useful details on you, as they can help you in the report process.

You can also report a scam here on our website using this form

Still curious about gift card scams? Maybe the articles that we chose could interest you...or you could have a look at the user-submitted reports on the site.

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04/13/2022... I tried to put in an username that doesn't exist, it said the gift card for the username is generated, being like if an account with that username existed, before I put in the username I checked on roblox if nobody has that username, roblox said there is no pe James Smith (15 comments) > Other Scam
09/27/2023... Do not trust this site. James will not answer your question and their live chat is a joke. They will take your money and act like they dont know who you are even though you responded to their email with the reference number for your transaction. So frustrating

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one week ago... This site is a complete scam. Promising to pay you for your unwanted gift cards same day via PayPal or cash app seemed appealing to me so I figured I would give it a shot. Big mistake. Once I entered my gift card information I received an automated email stati
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one week ago... Comment / Review: Nothing happens once you hit the final page. Scam contents: You won $1000 gift card Then you have to give info and give more info...coming up via Silk Browser Amazon Fire tablet > Fraudulent website
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05/10/2024... Comment / Review: I have called them, emailed them, and even a friend of mine and a lawyer also emailed them. Scam contents: Sold my gift card to them and was never paid

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