Gift cards are a popular choice for holiday gift giving because they are convenient and take much of the guesswork out of shopping for just the right gift.
However, the Federal Trade Commission warns not all gift cards are cyber-safe.
The FTC cautions fraudsters use gift cards to steal money from unsuspecting victims via various deceptions. Don’t be fooled during this busy time of year when your guard may be down due to the spirit of the season, the FTC offers these tips when purchasing gift cards:
- Inspect gift cards before you buy. A gift card should have all its protective stickers in place. Report the card to the store if anything looks scratched off or damaged.
- Save the receipt. Keeping the gift card receipt can be helpful if you run into problems with using the card.
- Treat gift cards like cash. Report a lost or stolen gift card to the card’s issuer immediately. Most card issuers have toll-free numbers you can find online to report a lost or stolen card. Depending on the card issuer, you may even be able to get some money back.
- Buy gift cards from sources you know and trust. Think twice about buying gift cards from online auction sites to avoid buying fake or stolen cards.
- Read the gift card’s terms and conditions. Understand the dollar-value of a gift card, for example, will there be fees charged every time it is used – or if it is not used?
- A gift card is a “gift” for the recipient — and not to be used as a payment. Gift cards are a scammer’s favorite way to steal money. Anyone who demands that you pay them with a gift card, for any reason, is always a scammer. This includes calls from imposters claiming to be a family member with an emergency, calls from the IRS and Social Security Administration, law enforcement, and utility companies. Simply put, never “pay” with a gift card.
The FTC advises consumers to report gift card scams directly with the card issuer (use this list of phone numbers and emails), then report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. For more information, visit ftc.gov/giftcards, and check out this FTC video.