Gift Cards are for Giving, Not Making Payments

As the holidays and season of giving arrive, people often hunt down gift cards – instead of trying to figure out that perfect present. But some people are buying them in bulk for other reasons – and Director of the Department of Ag, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Michelle Reinen, says scammers target certain kinds of cards. 

Reinen tells us “in 2018 through the end of September, the most reported gift card charged in the scams – 23-percent when asked for a gift card have been iTunes gift cards, and then the next percentage is Google Play at 18-percent. So you hear my constantly saying don’t play by iTunes, don’t pay by Target gift cards – well, they’re right there. There’s a reason for that.”

Other numbers Reinen pointed out show that “there’s been a 270-percent increase in scams that demand you pay by gift card since 2015. So it’s certainly the big red flag we’ve been talking about to the point where consumers have already lost $53-million in 2018 by paying by gift card in these scams.”

And while it might seem like a common-sense scenario to just hang up on these scammers – Reinen says they play on emotions to trick their victims. 

Reinen says “it’s usually the ‘government’ calling, and no one wants to be in trouble with the government. And you’re delinquent with something or your heat is going to be turned off, so you lose that rational problem solving when your emotions get heightened. So now you’ve just become responsive to the demand.”

Reinen issues yet another final reminder ahead of the holiday season that “gift cards are for giving, they are not for making payments. And the federal trade commission crunched a bunch of their data again, but it’s interesting that we are constantly saying that one of the big red flags of scams is if you’re asked to pay by gift card.”

If someone is demanding that you pay by gift card – you should hang up and report the call.