10 Gift Card Scam Tips That Could Save You Thousands

You are browsing the Internet when you receive a link to contact support to fix an issue with your bank account. You click the link then call the number and are told that there is a security problem. The first thing the scammer tries to do is to earn your trust by offering to fix the problem for you. He requests to connect to your computer and then takes control of your device.

Completely unaware of the phishing gift card scam about to take place, you grant him permission. The fact is that he didn't need your permission since the minute you clicked on the link, a program was installed that allowed him to view your screen. Soon you will be filing a report with your local police department that you have been a victim of a gift card scam if you continue.

The mouse is moving around your screen as he navigates through your computer. He then tells you that there is an encryption issue with your account funds: The "money is not encrypted."

Avoid A Gift Card Scam

how gift card scam works 10 Gift Card Scam Tips That Could Save You Thousands

The only way to fix the problem is to buy specific gift cards in smaller amounts of your current balance. You set out to go the retail stores to buy the gift cards. He instructs you that as soon as you buy each gift card you are to call him and provide the gift card and pin numbers. There is one catch though: You must do all of this within a two-hour span of time. By the time you arrive at the second store, the scammer has already spent your money on the first card. A little while later, you find out that you have been scammed by more than 10,000 dollars - a victim of a gift card scam.

How Does Gift Card Scam Work

The most basic form of a phishing gift card scam starts with social engineering. The scammer's objective is to get you to click on a link or give out your personal, financial information. The next step is to get you to trust him and pay them with one or more gift cards. He'll pretend to be an official, a representative, or a trusted resource to get you to go along with the conversation. Once he establishes a level of trust with you through deception, he will betray your trust and steal your information and money.

gift card scam

Known Scam Attempts

Remember, the goal of a scammer is to steal from you by earning your trust. This theft can only happen if you let them. They will offer you something for free to gain your trust and deceive you, from impersonating a website to one of the attacks below:

  • Social engineering - A call, social media, IM, chat, or text message pretending to be someone they are not
  • A malicious link - An email with a link in the body or in an attachment
  • Impersonating a website - A website or popup that redirects you to another website disguised as secure (with an SSL cert installed)

How To Report Gift Card Scam

This checklist of 10 tips covered here will help you report a gift card scam and recover some of the money that you have been defrauded of. Time is of the essence so you want to take immediate action. Click here for a list of major gift-card companies and how to approach them.

Tip 1 - Contact Your Bank

Notify your bank immediately and report the scam with their fraud department. If you paid the scammer with a gift card then there is very little the bank will be able to do.

Are Gift Cards Refundable?

If you were scammed using a website or spot fraudulent charges on your credit card, your bank may refund you the purchases but there is no guarantee.

Request New Debit & Credit Cards

Request that they issue you a new debit and credit card. You'll want to do this for every card holder in your family. Make a note that once the new cards arrive, you will need to update your utility bills (electric, gas, water) and other online account (cable, ISP). Failure to update your accounts in a timely manner will result in failure of automatic or recurring payments being made.

Set Withdraw Limit Amounts

If you have a savings account, limit the withdraw amount to a few hundred dollars per day, and the transaction type to inbound only. Request from your bank that only an in-person transaction type be allowed for withdraws. For your online checking and/or money market accounts, set up a withdraw limit of no more than several hundred dollars per day as well. The point here is to set limits that get you to think along the way to being defrauded. It will provide additional checkpoints to make it harder for you to fall for the same scam again. Keep in mind, that you will be cleaning up your computer by the time the new card(s) arrive.

If you are unaware of whether your personal information has been stolen or not, consider joining LifeLock to protect against identity theft.

Tip 2 - Contact Gift Card Store

Go in person to the same location where you purchased the gift card and file a scam report with them. Repeat this step for each store you purchased a gift card from. Some stores will want you to work through the local police department instead so be ready.

Tip 3 - File Report With Local Police

Visit your local police department to a file a report that you have been scammed. Click here for more information on how to report a scammer to the local police. To get a copy of your report, click here.

Tip 4 - File a Report With The FTC

File a report with the FTC (ReportFraud.ftc.gov). If you have been a victim of an Internet crime, you can file a complaint with the IC3.

Tip 5 - Disable Internet Connection To Your Computer

Disable the Internet to your computer. Don't connect any other computers to your network.

remote control 10 Gift Card Scam Tips That Could Save You Thousands

Tip 6 - Run A Cleaner On Your Computer

Using a USB drive, copy the program CCleaner and run a complete scan across all of the components. To get the program, click here. Make sure you have a full backup, don't try it without knowing that you have a valid backup.

Tip 7 -  Change Your Wi-Fi Password

Change your wi-fi password. If you don't have any devices that require 2.4Gz, you should be able to hide your SSID and prevent it from broadcasting it. Get a password vault solution, such as Keeper to store all of your passwords, including the passphrase for your wireless network. Click here if you are experiencing slow Wi-Fi performance.

Tip 8 - Install A Next Generation Anti-Virus

Install a Next Generation Anti-Virus (NGAV). See our article on cybersecurity by clicking here.

Tip 9 - Remove Any Remote Control Software.

Make sure that you don't have any remote control software installed and disable remote desktop.

Tip 10 - Remove Any Services and Browser Plugins.

Using CCleaner, remove any plugins or objects loading in your browser.

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