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Gift card scams a top consumer complaint locally as FTC issues renewed warning

Federal Trade Commission reports $233 million stolen in gift card scams in 2021
Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-20 08:09:32-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — If you go into your neighborhood Safeway store you’ll see a sign at the gift card kiosk asking shoppers if they are being scammed. It’s a reminder of the constant threat of gift card scams for consumers and the renewed effort from federal investigators to remind people these are meant to be gifts never for payment.

News5 viewers have learned the hard way just how convincing and costly gift card scams can be. Jean nearly bought gift cards in Woodland Park to pay off imposters posing as law enforcement.

”He said then you're going to go to jail and I'm like what? He said yeah, we got a warrant out for you. That's what got me,” said Jean.

Steve in Colorado Springs thought purchasing gift cards would save him money on his satellite TV bill when imposters called him and pitched it as part of a Directv promotion.

”They knew my first and last name, they knew the address of my service, they knew my entire current plan that I had, what channels I pay for, what channels I wasn't paying for, they knew my account number and they knew I had a bill coming in 5 days and knew when it was due and the exact amount of the bill,” Steve told News5.

In these cases fraudsters ask for the pin numbers on the newly purchased gift cards and then drain the funds. The money is gone.

The Federal Trade Commission reports $233 million was lost in reported gift card scams in 2021 and losses this year are expected to surpass that number. This prompted a renewed warning from the FTC.

Jonathan Liebert leads the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado and says gift card scams are a top complaint in our area and the fraudsters know it too.

”They’ll tell you as well, go to these three places and purchase these gift cards because we don’t want people to get suspicious and because people are cracking down on this stuff now you have to be careful. Which again is ironic because they’re trying to get you to commit to this scam,” said Liebert.

Despite these challenges, gift cards will continue to be a popular purchase this holiday season, but you’ll want to take a closer look at the cards before you buy them to make sure they’re packaged properly and haven’t been tampered with.

”There are reports of fraudsters going in and getting pictures of the actual card numbers themselves and even the pin so when you do load money on that they can drain the account because they have the information ahead of time,” said Liebert.

So the next time you buy a gift card, remember not to share the pin number with anyone, and save your receipt. If someone asks you to pay with a gift card, hang up the phone, delete the text, and don’t respond.

Here’s some advice from the FTC:
https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/gift-card-scams

Here’s help specifically for seniors through AARP: https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/gift-card-payment/

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