As you probably know, the scammers of the world are getting more creative and more brazen by the day.
Unfortunately, the Internet has made it far too easy for fraudsters to target victims in other states, and even other countries.
Many scams go after credit card and/or bank account info, but there’s an entirely different class of monetary scams in which the scammers ask you to send them gift cards instead of your financial info.
Why gift cards? Well, there are several reasons:
1 – Gift cards are anonymous, and thus very difficult to trace.
When you send a crook a gift card he can walk right into the establishment and make a purchase with the card without ever having to show an ID or provide any proof whatsoever of his identity.
For all practical purposes, a gift card is the same as cash.
2 – Potential victims are more likely to comply with the scammer’s request/demand.
Since gift cards are anonymous, potential victims are more likely to comply since they won’t be required to hand over any personal or financial information to the scammer.
3 – Gift cards are easy to buy and redeem.
Virtually every major chain store and most local stores sell gift cards these days, and they’re usually available right at the checkout counter.
What’s more, many stores sell gift cards that are redeemable at other stores. In fact, your local grocery store probably has a rack containing gift cards for dozens of other stores, restaurants, movie theaters and more.
That makes it very easy to just walk into the closest store and buy most any gift card that a scammer might ask for.
4 – Gift cards can be easily converted into cash.
Valid gift cards are hot items on the black market. Many scammers receive gift cards in the mail all the time, which they immediately sell on the street for pennies on the dollar.
Take for example a $100 gift card from Kroger or Walmart. The recipient of a card like that can easily sell it for $50, putting $50 into his own pocket while allowing the purchaser to buy $100 worth of food or other items for half price.
Ways scammers trick victims into sending them gift cards
There are several ways that scammers trick innocent people into sending them gift cards, including all of the following:
1 – They befriend a stranger on social media and cultivate a personal relationship with them.
After the scammer has built up trust with the victim they contact them and say they need money for some reason.
The most common excuse is to purchase a plane ticket so they can come for a visit. Other scammers all of a sudden need money for an operation or to pay expenses after losing their job.
Of course these excuses are always fake, but plenty of well-meaning (and trusting) people fall for them.
The fact that these people are asking for gift cards in order to pay for expensive services should be a huge red flag, but that flag is often either missed or ignored.
2 – A scammer contacts a stranger out of the blue and claims to be a rep for Apple, Microsoft or some other company. They say the victim’s computer has a virus and they need to remove it from their end. Of course there’s a fee involved and it must be paid with gift cards.
Apple and Google Play gift cards are requested most often since they are tech-related, and therefore less likely to raise a red flag with the victim since the “problem” is also tech related.
3 – A scammer contacts a stranger out of the blue and claims to have sensitive or embarrassing info about the victim that will be shared with the victim’s relatives and friends unless they send them gift cards totaling a certain amount.
Of course the scammer is lying, but since it’s human nature to err on the side of caution many victims send the gift cards as requested.
It pays to ALWAYS be skeptical of anyone who asks you to send them a gift card, either online or through the mail.
It also pays to keep in mind that anyone who has befriended you over the Internet is probably a scammer if they suddenly ask you to send them gift cards.