We want to make sure you are aware of common scams that may include asking for payment using Amazon Gift Cards or other gift card brands, such as iTunes or Google Play. While the specifics of the scams vary, scammers generally follow a common pattern: they connect with a victim by phone, email, through social media, or online; they create a sense of urgency (for example: by appearing to come from your boss, offering a great price or mentioning a personal hardship or emergency); they ask for payment using gift cards; and they instruct the victim to purchase gift cards online or at a nearby store. The scammer then demands or instructs the victim to provide the claim code on the gift card by phone, text message, or email – and then disappears. Here are a few reminders to help stay safe online:
- No legitimate sale or transaction will require you to pay specifically with gift cards.
- DO NOT provide any gift card details (such as the claim code) to someone you do not know or trust – and always take steps to verify the identity of anyone asking you to provide gift card details. Once a claim code, from any gift card, is provided to a scammer, the funds will likely be spent before you are able to contact law enforcement or the gift card provider. Remember, the person may PRETEND to be someone you know or trust (such as your boss) – always take steps to verify other than via email/text.
Report fraud or scam
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To learn more about common gift card scams, visit FTC.gov/giftcards. To file a complaint, visit https://ftccomplaintassistant.gov, call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to: Federal Trade Commission, CRC-240, Washington, D.C. 20580
- If your complaint is against a company in a country other than the United States, or you want to find information on where to report in locations outside the United States, visit http://www.econsumer.gov.
- If you believe you have fallen victim to or been exposed to a scam contact your technical support professionals for more information. You may also be required to complete a police report and contact the merchant/vendor from whom you purchased the cards to provide them with the police report number.
Common scams that may involve gift cards
Fake Online Listings Scam You find an item advertised online such as concert or event tickets, a vehicle, pet, or rental property and are instructed to make a payment using gift cards, and provide your claim codes via email or phone. The item is often priced far below market value and the seller may claim they need to sell the item quickly because of a life event that creates a sense of urgency, such as moving, divorce, death of a loved one, or military deployment. The scammer also may claim that following a payment for the goods, you will receive the item and may even send a fake receipt. Always be suspicious of anyone who contacts you and demands money quickly; no legitimate seller would require you to pay for the item in gift cards. Gift cards should never be used as payment for goods or services purchased as they offer you no protection!
Boss Scams You receive an unexpected/unsolicited email or text message from your boss or a leader in an organization you are involved in requesting that you purchase Gift Cards and send the cards or the claim codes to that person. Typically, the message will say that the gift cards will be used for some purpose within the company (e.g., employee incentives, client appreciation, charitable donations) or it is very “urgent” that you complete this task. The scammers often target new employees. The scammer may claim they are out of town, in a conference call, or otherwise engaged and that is why they need you to make the purchase for them, and to explain why they can not speak to you. We suggest you immediately try to contact your boss or the leaders of your organization directly using a phone number/email that you know is theirs. You can also try to contact their executive assistant either in person or using a known good phone number (one you already have saved) Always be suspicious of anyone who contacts you and demands money quickly.
Unsolicited phone call claiming to be … Scammers are using fake caller ID information to trick you into thinking they’re someone who can be trusted. They will pretend to be everything from your bank to UPS to tech support. The practice is called “caller ID spoofing,” and scammers can fake anyone’s phone number. You may receive an unsolicited call from someone stating they are a member of Customer Service. They may say your account is frozen and you need to purchase gift cards and provide the claim codes over the phone in order to remove the freeze on your account. Other things they might ask for are your password, full credit card ID or bank account number. NO reputable organization will never call you to ask you to purchase gift cards to unlock your account or ask you to provide sensitive personal information like your social security number, tax ID, bank account number, credit card information, or account related information like your mother’s maiden name or your password.
Family emergency scams You receive an unexpected phone call or unsolicited email from an individual claiming to be a lawyer, law enforcement agent, hospital employee, or other representative for a family member in distress who needs your immediate financial help. Some callers may even try to impersonate your family member or friend. You may be instructed to purchase gift cards to resolve the situation.
We suggest trying to immediately contact your family member directly using a phone number that you know is theirs, or contact another relative who can assist you. Always be suspicious of anyone who contacts you and demands money quickly.
Unpaid debt and tax scams You receive an unexpected phone call or unsolicited email to make a payment for taxes, fines, bail money, utility bills, or other unexpected fees. The scammer may claim you owe a past due amount as a result of miscalculation of your taxes; or the scammer may claim that you are owed a tax refund, prize, or rebate but must first make a payment for administrative fees with a gift card. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, you should never give out personal information. Report the call to the IRS using their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or by calling the IRS at 800-366-4484.
Job offer scams You receive an unexpected phone call suggesting you apply for an amazing job where you can work from home. You may be told that you can work your own hours, and make thousands of dollars a month. Once the scammer informs you that you’ve received a job offer, they may request that you pay a start-up fee or purchase a starter kit with Gift Cards. We recommend that you do not respond to employment opportunities from cold-callers, over email, or on websites claiming to be affiliated with any company. Any legitimate job opportunity will be posted online and will not require you to purchase equipment or pay any initiation fees.
To learn more about avoiding scams, click here.