Smart ways to avoid gift card scams

Mar 28, 2024 | Crypto Scam Defense | 0 comments

Gift card scams have been more prevalent in recent years, growing concerns for both businesses and consumers. Since more and more transactions are done online in the digital age, these scams represent a serious hazard rather than just a small upset. 

Gift card scams take advantage of its anonymity and ease of use, making it the go-to method for fraudsters to steal money silently. It’s critical to identify the obvious signs of these kinds of scams and educate yourself with safeguards.

In this post, we´ll explain the different types of gift card fraud and provide advice on how to avoid being a victim of these dishonest practices.

a hand holding a white card on a blue background

What are Gift Card Scams? 

A gift card scam is a fraudulent scheme where a scammer deceives victims into buying gift cards and then convinces them to disclose the card’s numbers and security codes. This type of fraud exploits the nicety, anonymity, and lack of traceability associated with gift cards, allowing scammers to use or sell them with minimal risk of detection.

How Does Gift Card Scams Work?

A statistic published by AARP reveals that 23% of consumers in the U.S. have encountered a situation where they have either given or received gift cards that had no funds on them. This alarming figure highlights the majority of gift card scams, emphasizing the importance of understanding how these fraudulent schemes operate.

These are the steps scammers follow to deceive:

1-The Impersonation Technique

Gift card scams often start with the scammer impersonating someone the victim trusts. This could be a government official, a representative from a well-known company, or even a close acquaintance. By adopting these credible identities, fraudsters gain the victim’s trust, setting the setting for the scam.

2- Creating a Sense of Urgency

The scammer manufactures a sense of urgency. They present a fabricated problem that requires immediate resolution, such as a supposed debt, a compromised bank account, or a family emergency. The scammer then positions gift cards as the only viable solution to this urgent issue, pushing the victim towards quick action without proper verification.

3-Convincing the Victim to Share Gift Card Details

The scam culminates when the victim, driven by the urgency of the situation, purchases gift cards and shares their numbers and PINs with the scammer under the guise of solving the problem. Once these details are handed over, the scammer can easily drain the funds from the cards.

A woman sitting in front of her open notebook, writing on a piece of paper

7 Gift Card Scams You Need to Know

1-Charity Gift Card Fraud

Scammers often target people willing to donate to charities or fundraisers, especially on social media or through phone calls. To avoid charity gift card scams, only donate to verified charities and never use gift cards for donations.

2- Fake Gift Card Activation

Scammers create fake websites and phone numbers pretending to be official gift card balance checking services. When you enter your gift card details on these sites, the scammers can steal your balance. To avoid this, always verify the website’s URL or use the phone number provided on the gift card itself for balance inquiries. 

3-Tampered Gift Cards

Scammers can mess with gift cards at stores before you buy them. They might put fake barcodes on them, so the money goes to their card instead of yours, or scratch off and replace the PIN. To avoid this, check the card for any signs of tampering, like stickers over the barcode or a scratched PIN area, before buying. 

4-Phone Scams Asking for Gift Cards

The most common scam is when someone pretending to be from a well-known company phone calls and says you owe money. They request you to pay the owed money with gift cards. Don’t trust surprise calls asking for gift cards. If they call, hang up and call back using the official number. Remember, real places take normal payments, not just gift cards.

5-Overpayment Scams Demanding Gift Cards as Refunds

In an overpayment and refund scam, victims are tricked into buying gift cards to repay a supposed accidental refund. Scammers use various tactics, including fake invoices and pretending to be tech support. To avoid this, never agree to refund an overpayment, especially using gift cards, and be wary of installing remote access software on your device.

6-Gift Card Requests from Hacked Friends or Family Accounts

In this scam, criminals access someone’s email or social media and ask their contacts to buy gift cards, pretending it’s for a birthday gift. They instruct the cards to be sent to a different email. To avoid falling for this, notice if the message seems off in tone or urgency. Always confirm with the person directly, to see if they truly sent the request.

7-Fake Prize Claims

Scammers may tell you that you’ve won a prize or giveaway but claim you need to pay fees with a gift card to claim it. This is always a scam; there’s no real prize. To avoid falling for this, remember that real lotteries or sweepstakes never ask winners to pay fees to receive their prizes, especially not with gift cards.

Tips When You Buy or Use  Gift Cards

To avoid the risk of falling victim to gift card scams, it’s crucial to adopt safe practices when buying and using gift cards. Here are some essential tips to help ensure your transactions remain secure:

1- Inspect for Tampering

Before purchasing a gift card, examine it closely for any signs of tampering. Look for discrepancies like altered barcodes, exposed PINs, or any packaging that seems resealed or tampered with. Scammers may manipulate these aspects to steal the card’s value once it’s activated.

2-Verify the Source

Always purchase gift cards directly from reputable sources. This can be from the official store, their official website, or authorized retailers. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites or marketplaces where the cards’ origins are unclear and could potentially be part of a scam.

3-Keep Purchase Records

Maintain a record of your gift card purchases, including the receipt and the card’s details (while ensuring the PIN is kept secure). This practice is invaluable in case the gift card is lost, or stolen, or if you need to prove the purchase in the event of a dispute.

A person holding a cell phone in his hand, in the background, you can see an image of sales in a display case


Awareness and vigilance are key defenses to protect personal and business finances from deceptive practices. As we navigate the complexities of the digital marketplace, staying informed about gift card scams is imperative to maintaining the security and integrity of our financial transactions.

Remember, the best defense against gift card scams is a proactive approach: scrutinize, verify, and always think twice before acting on urgent requests involving gift cards. Together, we can create a safer environment for digital transactions and reduce the impact of these fraudulent schemes.

We Want to Hear From You!

The fight against cryptocurrency scams is a community effort, and your insights are invaluable. Have you encountered a scam, or do you have questions about navigating the complex world of digital currency? Maybe you have suggestions or want to share your story to help others. Whatever your experience, we’re here to listen and support you.

Reach out to us at Share your stories, ask questions, or make comments. Your voice is crucial to building a resilient and informed community. Together, we can improve our defenses and promote a safer digital space for all.

Be a part of the change. Your story matters.

Photo via Unsplash and Pexels