If you’ve gotten an email or message asking that your buy prepaid gift card for someone, beware. This is a common ploy for scammers to get you to send them money. Prepaid gift cards are a particular favorite of these scammers because gift cards are a lot like cash. One the scammer has the codes and has spent the money, it’s almost impossible to trace and get that money back. Today’s Sponsor:  Parking Lot Striping Memphis

The ways that these scammers might reach out to you include emails, phone calls, or private messages on messaging platforms. They might use a variety of excuses or aliases to get you to purchase the gift cards. Watch out for people claiming to be tech support, working with a bank, or calling or messaging on behalf of a friend or family member because of an emergency. Another common front is that the person will pretend to be with the IRS or a collections agency.

As the frequency of these scams increases, so does the creativity of scammers. Watch out for people calling or emailing you to tell you that you’ve won a trip or prize, but that you first need to purchase a gift card to cover fees. Scammers might claim to be sellers from online auction sites. They could also pose as a member of the military, who has an emergency and requires you help. Finally, you might also run into scammers pretending to work for a utility company. They’ll tell you that you need to purchase gift cards in order to pay off your utilities, or they’ll cut you off.

One thing that is consistent will be the urgency. The person contacting you will insist that these gift cards must be purchased immediately, and that you send them the codes as soon as possible. They will tell you to buy gift cards, sometimes several, for popular companies like iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play. If they’ve gotten you on the phone, they will often stay on the phone with you while you do this. Then they will get you to give them the codes on the backs or the gift cards. As soon as you’ve given them the codes, they’ll be able to spend the money you loaded onto the cards.

After that, you can expect to never hear from these people again—and potentially to lose out on the money you sent.

Getting scammed by people requesting prepaid gift cards can be both financially damaging, as well as psychologically damaging. If you ever find yourself in this unfortunate position, it’s important to get in touch with the right people. The first thing you need to do is tell the company that issued the gift cards right away. You can ask if the money is still on the cards you bought, and if they can refund you what was stolen. Not all companies will offer refunds, which makes it all the more important that you know how to look out for these scams.

Once you’ve contacted the company who issued the gift cards, you should report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission. While they may not be able to get you all your money back, your report might help them launch an investigation and stop other vulnerable people from being scammed in the future.

If you get a call from someone and you’re not sure the request is legitimate, start asking questions. Ignore any pressure or urgency and demand specifics. If they refuse to give it to you, hang out. You’re almost certainly the intended victim of a scam. The best thing you can do in this kind of situation is to cut of contact immediately, and report it to the company you were requested to buy the gift cards from. If you purchased them from a retail store, make sure to let that store know what happened as well.

Also, remember to hang onto receipts when you purchase gift cards. These receipts will usually have the gift card’s PIN on it, which will make it easier to track or cancel if the money hasn’t yet been spent.

Online scammers ask for gift cards because they are easy to get, and difficult to track. Once the money is gone, it’s usually gone. While you may be able to get a refund from the original issuers of the gift card, the emotional toil that comes with these scams will be long lasting.

So if you get a call or message urgently demanding you purchase gift cards for someone, or a message clearly intended to tug at your heartstrings to get you to buy gift cards, understand that it’s almost always a scam. Don’t respond to these messages, block the phone numbers and email addresses, and keep your money safe from scammers.   

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Why Do Online Scammers Ask for Prepaid Gift Cards?