Gift cards are safe and convenient payment and gift options—evident by their widespread popularity and use. According to the National Retail Federation, gift cards have been the most popular gifts in America for 14 years in a row—in addition to being popular incentives and rewards. According to Fiserv, 64 percent of people even buy gift cards just to spend on themselves!People love giving, receiving, and using gift cards in physical or digital (egift) form, but unfortunately so do fraudsters. Without the proper safeguards in place, criminals can abuse gift cards, just as they can abuse debit cards, credit cards, or checks.
Follow these tips for safe, positive gift card experiences
• Decline ANY unsolicited demands for payment by gift card online or over the phone. Gift cards are only an acceptable form of payment with their affiliated brand, so if someone contacts you claiming to be from a police department, a utility company, the IRS or another third party informing you that you owe money and must pay via gift card, hang up the phone, delete the email, and cut off communication. You cannot pay outstanding speeding tickets, back taxes, or any similar types of bills using gift cards and are likely being targeted by a scammer. The elderly are often targeted for these common types of scams, so be sure to inform your friends, family and peers.
o To report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, visit their website or call 800-366-4484.
o If you think you’ve been scammed, contact the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or via this toll-free number: 1-877-FTC-HELP.
• Check physical gift cards for package tampering before you buy them. If the scratch-off material covering the card’s PIN number is uncovered, pick another card and show the questionable card to a store associate.
• Buy gift cards directly from retailers, trusted sources and known brands—especially when you buy online.
• Store your gift cards securely. Keep physical cards in a wallet, purse, or other secure place. If the card has a PIN covered by scratch-off material, leave the scratch-off material in place until the PIN is required. Keep egifts secured in an account or mobile wallet that is password-protected with a strong password and multi-factor authentication (MFA).
• Never share gift card account or PIN numbers with people you don’t know.
• Send physical gift cards via trackable shipping methods and egifts via a secure email or mobile programs that are password protected.