Gift Card Scams

Did You Know How to Safe Guard Against Gift Card Scams?


Gift cards are a very popular and convenient way to give a gift this holiday season to your friends or family, but they can also be a target for scammers who want to steal your money or personal information.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), 50% more people reported gift card fraud this year compared to last year. So, what are the sneaky tricks scammers and hackers are using to deceive you? How do you spot their awful tricks and avoid them? Here are the 5 biggest gift card scams aimed at you this time of year.

1. Display rack gift card trick

Scammers will record the activation code on the card or place a custom barcode sticker over the real barcode, which allows them to secretly load the cash onto their card immediately after you purchase the gift card. This means that when you or your recipient try to use the gift card, it will be empty or invalid.

How to avoid this scam

Check the packaging of the gift card before buying it. Look for signs of tampering, such as the wrapping being torn or resealed, or stickers placed over the barcode or card number. Also, choose a card from the back of the rack, as scammers often place their fraudulent cards at the front of the display.

Impersonation gift card trick

Scammers will impersonate someone you know or trust. 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 buy a gift card or multiple gift cards, and then send them a photo of the card or the numbers on the back of the card. Once they have the gift card information, they will disappear 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 know or trust, verify their identity by contacting them directly through a different channel.

Don’t trust caller ID, as scammers can spoof phone numbers. Don’t be pressured by threats or promises, as scammers use emotional manipulation to get you to act quickly and without thinking. And remember, no legitimate company or government agency will ever ask you to pay them with a gift card.

Resale gift card trick

Another gift card trick involves buying or selling gift cards on online platforms, such as websites, apps, or social media groups. Scammers will offer to sell you gift cards at a discounted price or buy your unwanted gift cards for cash.

However, they will either send you a fake or empty gift card or take your gift card information and money without sending you anything in return. They may also use stolen credit cards or hacked accounts to buy or sell gift cards, which can put you at risk of fraud or identity theft.

How to avoid this scam

Only buy or sell gift cards from reputable sources, such as official retailers, authorized resellers, or trusted friends and family. Avoid buying or selling gift cards from strangers online, especially if 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 offers protection, such as a credit card or PayPal, instead of a gift card, wire transfer, or cash.

Phishing gift card trick

A very popular gift card trick this holiday season involves phishing, Scammers will send you an email, text, or pop-up message that looks like it comes from a legitimate company, such as a retailer, a bank, or a tech support service.

They will claim that there is a problem with your account, your order, your device, or your security and that you need to verify your identity, update your information, or fix an issue. They will then ask you to click on a link, open an attachment, or call a number, and then request that you pay them with a gift card or provide them with your gift card information.

How to avoid this scam

Never click on links, open attachments, or call numbers from unsolicited messages, as they may lead to fake or malicious websites or software. Don’t provide any personal or financial information, such as your passwords, PINs, account numbers, or gift card numbers, to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.

Loyalty program gift card trick

This gift card trick involves loyalty programs, which are rewards programs that offer you points, discounts, or freebies for being a loyal customer. Scammers will pretend to be representatives of a loyalty program that you are a member of, or that you are eligible to join.

They will tell you that you have won a prize, a sweepstakes, or a promotion and that you need to pay a fee, a tax, or a shipping cost to claim it. They will then ask you to pay them with a gift card or provide them with your gift card information.

How to avoid this scam

Be wary of any unsolicited offers or notifications that claim that you have won something, especially if 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 will never ask you to do that. Don’t provide any personal or financial information, such as your passwords, account numbers, or gift card numbers, to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.

How to safely give and receive gift cards

  • Buy gift cards online instead of physical cards directly from the store, not a third party.  You can also use these favorite sites and apps that will reward you with a percentage back on all gift card purchases.
  • Avoid gift card racks at retail stores. If you still want to buy one at the store, dig back into the pile without taking the first ones off the rack. Inspect them like a detective before you buy them to make sure they are 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 likely a scam.
  • Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites like eBay.
  • Never provide personal financial information beyond a method of payment to anyone offering gift cards in-store or online.