Gift cards; while they are a great means of acknowledging someone's birthday, anniversary, or simply to say "thank you," they are also rapidly becoming a means for con artists to scam unsuspecting individuals, especially seniors.

The Scenario: You receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS. They say that you owe hundreds or even thousands in back taxes. However they claim to have a solution for you to avoid penalties or even jail time. All you have to do is put 'X' amount of money onto a gift card (such as iTunes or Google Play), read the code on the cards to them over the phone, and they will accept payment that way. You hang up the phone thinking that you have dodged a bullet, but in reality you have just been scammed out of money, as there is little to no way to trace the cards or to retrieve the money.

Gift cards are a perfect means for conning unsuspecting people as they are nearly untraceable, instantly redeemable, and are more easily transferable than cash. If you receive a call similar to this, when in doubt, one thing to remember is that gift cards cannot and will not be used by government officials to pay off taxes, fines, or bail.

For more on how fraudsters are using gift cards to scam people, check out these two articles from AARP:

  • How Gift Card Scams Are Used to Finance Fraud
    • This article describes this growing trend, including a real scenario in which someone was nearly conned.
  • Gift Card Scams
    • This article talks about how scammers are infiltrating retail stores where gift cards are sold and also provides warning signs along with do's and don'ts that you should adhere to, to avoid potential scams.

Scammers are becoming more creative and nothing is off limits to them.