Think Twice Before Purchasing Gift Cards to Pay Telephone Solicitors - Better Yet - Don't Do It!
The federal government this month reported that from January through September of this year, gift cards and reload cards (like MoneyPak) were reported as a payment method in 26% of the fraud reports in which people reported how they paid, up from just 7% in 2015 – a 270% increase. Con artists favor these cards because they can get quick cash, the transaction is largely irreversible, and they can remain anonymous.
People report that con artists direct them to buy gift or reload cards at well-known stores like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and CVS. According to these reports, they demand some specific card brands. iTunes cards have been the top card brand by a wide margin since 2016. By contrast, Google Play cards were not reported in significant numbers until this year.
The Federal Trade Commission reported losses where people used gift or reload cards reached $40 million in 2017, up from $20 million in 2015 and $27 million in 2016 Through September of this year, that number is already $53 million (and these are just the cases reported). While individual fraud losses using these cards have held steady at a $500 median loss per incident, people report losing a lot more to some types of scams. Tech support scams are a notable example. When people report paying for fraudulent tech support services with a gift or reload card, the median dollar loss is now $959, up nearly 60% from $600 in 2017. Grandparent scams continue to increase where grandchildren imposters call to say they are in jail and need bail money to get released. Utility scams continue to occur where the utility company reports your bill is past due and without an immediate payment (via gift card) your power will be turned off within hours.
Please, recognize these scams for what they are and just don't do it!