By now you’re probably aware of the many fake gift card scams that are making the rounds on the Internet.
Well, now there’s a semi-offline version that’s affecting people nationwide here in the United States.
I used the term semi-online because that’s pretty much what it is.
As usual, there are several variations of this scam, but most of them are perpetrated in the following manner:
The scammer either rents a mailing list or compiles a list of his own by skimming names and addresses from Internet “people search” sites like Whitepages.com.
He then mails an authentic-looking, but fake gift card to everyone on the list along with the URL of a web page the recipient must visit in order to “activate” the card.
Once a recipient visits that web page they’re presented with a form they must fill out in order to complete the activation.
The info requested on the form typically includes the person’s name, mailing address, date of birth and social security number – in other words, everything the scammer needs to assume the victim’s identity and open fraudulent financial accounts in their name!
You’d think that in today’s world simply requesting that type of information in order to activate a gift card would raise such a huge red flag that only the most naïve among us would fall for it, but sadly that isn’t the case.
Unfortunately, numerous victims are taking the bait and cheerfully supplying all of the requested info, all in exchange for the opportunity to use a gift card with a face value of as little as $50!
The vast majority of legitimate gift cards require nothing more than entering the activation number that’s printed on the back of the card into the store’s website in order to activate the card and claim the credit.
A few others also request the person’s name and mailing address, but that’s info that you would normally have to provide anyway in the course of completing a purchase.
As I mentioned above, an online retailer should NEVER need or request your date of birth and/or social security number unless you’re asking them to extend credit to you.
If you receive a gift card in the mail that you weren’t expecting to receive, DO NOT visit the web page listed in the instructions unless and until you have verified the legitimacy of the gift card with the company that supposedly sent it.
You can easily verify whether an offer like this is legitimate or a scam simply by visiting the company’s website and contacting their customer service department via email, live chat or phone.
And now, one final word of caution…
Even if the gift card itself turns out to be legitimate, think long and hard before you decide to hand over such sensitive personal information in exchange for what amounts to a mere pittance.
No legitimate company needs your date of birth and/or social security number simply to activate a gift card.
Those pieces of info should never be needed unless you’re filling out some type of credit application.
Bottom line: If you receive a gift card in the mail that you weren’t expecting, the odds are great that it’s a fake.
But even if it turns out to be real you could easily end up giving them something (your personal info) that’s a lot more valuable than the amount of the gift card itself.
As always, keep the phrase “Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware” in mind in everything you do.
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