We’ve rung in a new year, but the scams seem to remain the same.  According to the FTC, last year between January and September, 26% of scam victims paid with prepaid gift cards last year, compared to 7% over the same span in 2015.  In a sadly familiar case, our Greensboro, North Carolina partners at WFMY reported on a grandmother who received a call from a scammer pretending to be her grandson and asking for help with legal troubles.  A second scammer pretended to be a lawyer and instructed the unsuspecting grandmother to send prepaid gift cards.  He also told her not to answer any questions from store employees if they questioned her about her gift card purchases.  As the scam becomes more common, vendors like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have taken steps to try to prevent gift card fraud.  They have worked to increase training of employees to spot potential scam victims and put out public service announcements to warn consumers.  They’ve also implemented limits on gift card amounts and some restrictions on how they can be redeemed.  Scammers favor gift cards because unlike cash or credit cards, they don’t require a physical meeting to exchange and are largely untraceable.

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As always, do not send someone a gift card as a means of payment.  Prepaid gift cards are gifts that should only be sent to people you know.  If someone claims to be a loved one and asks you for help, take some steps to verify their identity.  If they ask you to send them a gift card or read off numbers to get them out of trouble, it’s always a scam.  No legitimate lawyer or business will accept third party gift cards as payment.

To submit your consumer complaint, use our online form.