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Don't Fall for a Gift Card Scam This Holiday Season

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 13, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Stories about scammers asking for payment in gift cards, a relatively new trend, seem to be increasing in frequency. Gift cards, believe it or not, are a relatively untraceable method for scammers to steal money from victims. Generally, if a person is asking you to provide them with payment via a gift card over the phone, you are being scammed (that is unless you're legitimately shopping by phone using a gift card).

Recently, the story of John Gutz made headlines after his daughter saved him from giving a scammer $10,000 in gift cards. Mr. Gutz was able to walk into a Sam's Club and purchase the pile of gift cards, and luckily, his daughter inquired into what he was doing before he started reading off the numbers to the scammer over the phone.

Gutz Got Lucky

John Gutz got lucky. The scam all started with a fake virus claim. Scammers insisted on a $500 payment in order to clean up Mr. Gutz's computer. After he was able to get a refund, the scammers got access to his credit card and bank info and made a $10,000 cash advance which they placed in his own bank account. Then, they convinced him that it was an accident, and he needed to buy $10,000 in gift cards and read them the numbers so that the mistake could be fixed.

The story of Diane Van Crey is similar, but ends much more tragically as she was not stopped from reading the scammers the gift cards' numbers. In her situation, she actually had to go to multiple stores to purchase all the gift cards because of limits that some stores have now imposed in order to help stop fraudsters.

Gift Cards Are for Shopping, Not Making Payments

It bears repeating:

  • If someone is asking you to buy gift cards and read them the numbers over the phone, you are being scammed.
  • If someone is asking you to make a payment using a gift card, you are being scammed.
  • Even if it is a government official asking you to make a payment with a gift card, you are being scammed.

If someone is asking you to use a gift card over the phone, stop what you are doing, and use the internet to research what is happening. If it is the government or a legitimate sounding company, call them using their official phone number and inquire into the legitimacy of your gift card payment BEFORE making it. Don't trust anyone requesting a payment via gift card. Also keep in mind that this is one of many online scams that are currently happening. Always be cautious before engaging in any transaction online that seems unusual or suspicious.

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