An Ashland man purportedly was bilked out of $3,500 in an increasingly common scam involving gift cards.
According to State Police in Bloomsburg, an unidentified 54-year-old man from Ashland purchased 4 separate gift cards with a value of $3,500. He did this because of phone calls he believed were from government agents.
Ashland Man Bilked by “Government Agents” in Gift Card Scam
Back on Aug. 14, the Ashland man reported buying these 4 gift cards:
- A pair of Home Depot gift cards valued at $1,500 each;
- A pair Google Play gift cards valued at $200 each; and
- A Google Play gift card valued at $100.
Of course, the people on the other line weren’t “government agents” as they claimed to be. What government agent would ask for payment in the form of a gift card?
FTC Says Anyone Demanding Payment with Gift Cards is a Scammer
None, says the Federal Trade Commission. In fact, the FTC says anyone who requests payment with a gift card is almost certainly a scammer.
And the chances of getting your money back after you’ve purchased these gift cards are slim to none.
Commonly, these scammers will say they represent the IRS, a tech support firm, or even a family member. Some reports also indicate that scammers will say they’re from a utility company, a member of the armed services, or a sweepstakes or contest holder.
And most likely, they’ll want the money they say they’re owed in a hurry. There are even instances where the scam artist stays on the phone with the mark and gets the gift card information right away. Once someone gives the bunko artist that information, the money is as good as gone.
Generally, this is how a gift card scam is perpetrated:
- The mark gets a call from someone who’s demanding payment for a service or fine.
- They request payment by using gift cards. Gift cards are often for popular online shops like iTunes, Google, Play, and Amazon.
- The bunko artist tells the mark to buy the gift cards at stores local to them (like grocery stores or pharmacies where numerous gift cards are sold).
- The mark gives the scammer the PIN code on the gift card.
Only if someone believes they’re conned and act immediately is there a chance of getting a refund for the gift card purchase. However, this is very unlikely. It’s about as unlikely as authorities catching up to these scammers, too.
“The scammers and your money are gone, usually without a trace,” the FTC says.
FBI Warns of Social Security-Gift Card Scam
Back in January 2020, the FBI released a statement on the uptick in gift card scams involving the Social Security Administration.
“In this scam, fraudulent callers posing as an FBI agent inform the victim that their Social Security number has been suspended. The scammer provides a fake name and badge number to trick the victim into believing they are an FBI agent. The scammer tells the victim that in order to get their Social Security number reinstated, they must purchase gift card(s), put money on the card(s), and call the scammer back and provide the gift card number(s). Instead of providing any additional information on the victims’ Social Security number, the scammer will hang up,” the FBI said in a statement.
Report Gift Card Scams
The FTC wants to hear if you believe you’ve been victimized in this way. You can file a report at ftc.gov/complaint, or call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.
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