Gift card scams commonly used by criminals to steal your money
LEE COUNTY, Fla. – Graduation season is upon us. Maybe you’re picking up some gift cards to congratulate the grads in your life, but there are other people who want you to buy gift cards for them too: Criminals.
Better Business Bureau International Investigations Specialist Steve Baker said gift cards are actually the most common way crooks will try to con your cash away from you in a number of different scams.
“There’s been a big shift across the whole scam world asking for payments through gift cards,” Baker said. “Giving people the numbers off the back of a gift card is just like giving them cash.”
He said scammers have been moving towards asking for gift cards because there’s less of a chance of getting caught.
“They simply have people go to a comfortable, familiar, local retailer, buy a gift card, take a photo of the scratch-off numbers on the back, text message those off, [then] crooks have got the bucks,” Baker said. “They don’t need the actual card.”
The average losses have been about $700 but sometimes have ranged into the thousands.
If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. Ask Michael Bass up in Gainesville.
He said the story of how he was scammed by a person claiming to have feelings for him under what appeared to be a fake Instagram account.
“At first, she had only asked for a small amount of money through [the] Cash app, and also gift cards, and felt I could help her out with that,” Bass said. “I didn’t feel comfortable after she kept repeatedly asking me for money.”
The person behind the account ended up snagging more than $300 from Bass before he blocked her on everything. He had given them some of that money through gift cards the person had asked him to buy.
“All the scams take advantage of basic human emotions and weaknesses,” said Baker.
Bass said he definitely felt bad and betrayed by someone who scammed their way to his heart and wallet.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said these savvy scammers are not unheard of in Southwest Florida either.
“We have seen this before in the past,” said Sheriff Marceno. “If someone’s calling you asking for your personal information, or they’re asking you to get a gift card, the flags should go up immediately.”
Your best bet to save your bank account: Stop, think, and don’t be hurried.
“I wanted to get my story out there and warn others as this can happen to anybody,” Bass said.
The BBB wants to hear from you if you encounter any type of scam. You can report one by going to the bureau’s scam tracker page.
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