NEW YORK STATE POLICE
Major Darrin S. Pitkin
Troop D Commander
New York State Police are sending a reminder to the public. If someone calls, texts, emails, or messages you on social media and asks you to send money in the form of a gift card, it’s probably a scam.
New York State Police continue to receive complaints of various scams that target people asking for money in the form of gift cards. Gift cards are a popular and convenient way to give someone a gift. They’re also a popular way for scammers to steal money from you. That’s because gift cards are like cash: if you buy a gift card and someone uses it, you probably cannot get your money back. Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer.
What they all have in common is an urgent need for you to send money right away. Imposters will sometimes ask you to wire money to them, but, increasingly, they tell you to put money on a gift card.
Here’s what happens: the caller will often tell you to buy a popular gift card, frequently, iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon. The caller will tell you to get the card at a particular store near you – often Walmart, Target, Walgreens, or CVS. They may even have you buy several cards at several stores. Sometimes, the caller will stay on the phone with you while you go to the store. Once you buy the card, the caller will then demand the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card. Those numbers let them immediately get the money you loaded onto the card. And once they’ve done that, the scammers and your money are gone, usually without a trace.
If you or you know someone that paid with a gift card, call the card company and let them know the card was used in a scam – there may be a chance the money hasn’t been taken yet. The Federal Trade Commission does collect information about scams at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/assistant.