I needed to pick up a gift card for a birthday present, so I stopped by my friendly, neighborhood, Walgreens store and began my search through their generous selection. In determining which card to purchase, I was pleasantly surprised to find this notification/warning/PSA hanging with the cards.
I'm not sure how long these notifications have been posted, and I also wonder who actually reads them? I CAN tell you they aren't working very well. When a victim is advised to purchase gift cards and either read the numbers over the phone, or told to take a picture of the front and back of the card and email or text it somewhere, they aren't reading any warning signs first. In fact, the victim is usually in a hurry and doesn't have or take the time to read anything. Even if they did, they most likely wouldn't recognize it as applying to their situation.
Gift cards are commonly requested by scammers as an initial way to steal money from their victims. They are used in almost every kind of scam from romance scams, to IRS scams, Social Security scams, computer scams, grandparent scams and lottery scams.
The cashier at the store should question the intentions of a buyer whenever multiple cards are needed and the dollar amounts are higher than what one would normally spend for a typical gift. It's subjective of course, but even scammers know purchasing too much at the same place could raise some suspicion. This is why scammers often tell their victims to go to multiple stores so the amounts are broken up, making the scam not as easily detected. Being instructed to go to multiple locations should be a red flag to the victim, but again, victims aren't usually thinking clearly because they are under duress.
Amazon, iTunes and Google Play are the most popular cards requested because scammers can more readily turn those into cash.
When victims are asked to pay for something with a gift card, they need to ask themselves if that sounds legitimate? Would you normally pay bills, fines or taxes with a gift card? How about bail? If you are EVER asked to pay for something with a gift card, chances are you are being scammed.
Remember: Gift cards are for gifts. They are never to be used as payments.