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In 2016, the global gift card market was valued at a whopping $586 million. While that might seem huge (and it is) it has nothing on the projected growth within this industry. It is estimated that by the time 2023 rolls around, the global gift card market will have grown to an incredible $1,591,461 million. Yes, there is big money in gift cards.
As is the case with any industry that sees so much cash and popularity, there are those unscrupulous individuals who will always look to take advantage of that situation. Scam artists are always on the lookout for the next “gig” and victim. Whether you want to sell your gift cards for cash or use it to buy your nephew something nice for Christmas, you have a right to stay away from scam artists. Here are 5 common gift card scams that you can easily spot and avoid.
Gift Card Scams that you can Easily Spot and Avoid
Let’s start by saying that to most people, some of these gift card scams are quite obvious. However, the thing you need to realize about scammers is that they prey on your most desperate needs and desires. Who wouldn’t want to have more money? Who wouldn’t want to help out a kid with a life-threatening condition? These are the sort of things that most scammers prey on. They are hoping that in your desperation you will not take the time to let logic come into play.
1. “Instant Loan” Gift Card Scam
If you are in debt or need a little extra cash as fast as possible (this is almost always the case with about 99% of the population) then you are very likely going to fall for this scam if you are not careful.
The trick behind this scam is simple. Someone calls you up saying that they are from such and such instant or payday loans company and that they have a wonderful offer for you. They say that you are pre-qualified for a loan of say $500 with 0% interest. They don’t even need your credit rating or source of income. All they need is your billing address and you would have to pay a small processing fees to get the money on that very day. This small processing fee is to be paid in the form of a gift card of their choice. They will often wait on the line with you until you have bought the gift card and given them the gift card number. Once they hang up, you will never hear from them again and NO, you will not get your $500.
2. Police Impersonation Gift Card Scam
It might sound strange but it does happen. In this scam, the scammer uses caller ID spoofing technology that allows them to create fake caller IDs. They create one for a police station far away from you so you have a difficult time verifying it. They then call you up and tell you that a relative of yours (usually a relative who is out of state) is in big trouble, has been arrested and needs bail money. They go on to say that they could process him/her out right that instant if you send their bail money in the form of a gift card. They will even go on to threaten your relative with real jail time if “this case” goes any further.
3. Craigslist Gift Card Scam
This scam is quite recent. If you are selling gift cards on Craigslist, the scammer will approach you and ask to buy the gift cards remotely. They will even send you the money you need via PayPal to prove that they are legitimate. As soon as you give them the gift card information they go right ahead to drain all the money on it and then cancel the PayPal transaction thus charging back what they had already sent you on your PayPal.
The problem with this scam is that you get penalized thrice:
- You lose your gift card
- You lose the money you were supposed to get for it
- Your PayPal account might get limited for dealing with a hacked account
These people always use hacked PayPal accounts and PayPal does not take that sort of thing lightly. They will limit your account until the complete their investigations.
4. Phone “Refund” Scam
In this case, the scammer always calls claiming to be from your phone company. They say that you have unfortunately been overpaying your phone bill and they would like to give you a refund going back a couple of years of so (thousands of dollars). However, before they can process your refund they need you to pay a small processing fee using gift cards. Once you give them the gift card information you will never hear from them again.
5. “Jury Duty Warrant” Scam
Most people avoid jury duty as much as they can and the scammers know this fact. They will call you up saying that you have an arrest warrant out for you because you failed to file an exception for jury duty some years back. Of course, you don’t remember this but it sounds very realistic. They say that they can make it all go away if you send the gift cards so they can backdate the file or even make it disappear.
All these scams prey on the fact that we either want something for free or we are afraid of something happening to our family members.
How to Avoid Common Gift Card Scams
The easiest way to avoid these scams is to:
- Avoid anything that seems too good to be true
- Take your time to think through the situation before parting with cash
- No that absolutely no authority service will accept payments in the form of gift cards
As long as you are not out there trying to take advantage of a situation like getting $500 for 0% interest then you should be relatively safe from scammers.