Attorney General Ford Advises Nevadans to Protect Themselves from Scams Involving Gift Cards

Oct.14, 2021

 Carson City, NV – Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford advises Nevadans to be on alert when someone contacts you demanding payment for any reason by gift card – a popular method of payment for scammers. Legitimate businesses and government agencies will never ask for payment by gift card.

“Gift cards are for monetary gifts to your family members, friends and other people you know, not for making payments for taxes, fines, bills or other types of reimbursement,” said AG Ford. “Treat gift card funds like cash: once you hand the gift card off, that money is gone. Question whether the person asking for large or multiple gift cards might be part of a scam tell a relative, friend or law enforcement agency before purchasing and sending gift cards to people you don't know.”

Gift cards are a popular form of payment for scams because they are easy for people to purchase at many retail stores and funds can be quickly handed over to the scammer by reading off the card number or handing over the card. No financial institution intervention is required. Once the scammer has the card information, they can quickly use the funds, and the money cannot be recovered or traced.

Scammers implement gift cards into a variety of scams, but many follow a similar path. First, the caller or email communication will create an urgent situation. They may claim to be from the government, asking you to pay a fine or taxes. They may claim to be from your credit card company asking them to help fix an error so that you don't owe thousands of dollars. They may claim to be from tech support, reporting to you that something is wrong with your computer and demanding payment to fix it. The scammer may also pretend to be a family member or friend who is in an emergency situation and in need of assistance. The caller or messenger may also pretend to be romantically interested in you and ask for money to help them out with an unpleasant situation. Some scammers may even pose as your boss or coworker and tell you that you need to purchase the gift cards to give to a client.

Take a few moments to assess the situation before running out to buy a gift card. Call the friend, family member or coworker directly through their personal phone number to confirm the request or, ask a loved one or good friend about the request before purchasing or sending gift cards. Do not give money to people you do not know. Remember that the government will not ask you to pay taxes or fines via a gift card.

Second, the scammer will tell you to buy a specific gift card or set of gift cards and load money onto it. Popular gift card brands are eBay, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Target, Wal-Mart, CVS or Walgreens. They may instruct you to purchase the cards at different stores in order to avoid suspicion from the retailer. Cashiers at many major retailers are trained to ask consumers who are buying large amounts on gift cards questions to alert consumers of scams.

Finally, once you have purchased the cards, the scammer will ask for the gift card number and PIN. Once the scammer has this information, they can use the money loaded on the card immediately.

If you paid a scammer with a gift card, report it to the company that issued the card as soon as possible. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the Nevada Attorney General. You can also file a police report with local law enforcement, particularly if you physically handed the gift card to the scammer. Include as much information as possible with your complaint, including gift cards numbers and receipt information.