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Gift cards are a great way to give a gift. But did you know they are also a scammer’s favorite way to steal money? According to the FTC’s new Data Spotlight, more scammers are demanding payment with a gift card than ever before – a whopping 270 percent increase since 2015.Gift cards and reload cards are the #1 payment method for imposter scams. More scammers are demanding payment with a gift card. The percentage of consumers who told the FTC they paid a scammer with a gift card has increased 270% since 2015. Reports to the FTC say scammers are telling people to buy gift cards at Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS and other retail shops. 42% of people who paid a scammer with a gift card used iTunes or Google Play. Federal Trade Commission.

Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. If someone calls with urgent news or a convincing story and then pressures you to pay them by buying a gift card, like an iTunes or Google Play card, and then giving them the codes on the back of the card – stop. It’s a scam.

Gift cards are the number one payment method that imposters demand. They might pose as IRS officials and say you’re in trouble for not paying taxes; or a family member with an emergency; or a public utility company threatening to shut off your water; or even a servicemember selling something before deployment. Or they might call with great news – you’ve won a contest or a prize! But to get it, you need to pay fees with a gift card. Scammers will say anything to get your money. And they know how to play into your fears, hopes, or sympathies. They like gift cards because, once they’ve got the code on the back, the money is gone and almost impossible to trace. But knowing how these scams work can help you avoid them, and you can help even more by passing on the information to people you know.

(View or share the YouTube version of this video.)

If you paid a scammer with a gift card, report it as soon as possible. Call the card company and tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Here is contact information for some of the gift card companies that scammers use most often. Then, tell the FTC about it – or any other scam – at Your reports may help law enforcement agencies launch investigations that could stop imposters and other fraudsters in their tracks.

Report Scams

  • Call 1 (888) 280-4331
  • Learn about about Amazon gift card scams here.

Google Play

  • Call 1 (855) 466-4438
  • Report gift card scams online here.
  • Learn about Google Play gift card scams here.


  • Call 1 (800) 275-2273 then press “6” for other, then say “operator” to be connected to a live representative.
  • Learn about iTunes gift card scams and how to report them here.


  • If you have a Steam account, you can report gift card scams online here.
  • Learn about Steam gift card scams here.
  • Call 1 (866) 795-7969
  • Report a MoneyPak card scam online here.
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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
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We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

October 16, 2018
there was a girl taking orders in a drive thru restaurant with an ipad and a credit card swiper, she didn't work there - it almost worked for her... but I paid cash at the window - scammers never stop
December 13, 2018

In reply to by drive-through-…

That's disgusting. Finding ways of scamming people is just low
October 16, 2018
I've heard from scammers pretending to be from the IRS several times. Each time it was pay up or else. Of course, if I ask them for simple things like my name or address, they're unable to provide it. I even asked one who said he was calling from Washington, DC why he had a Utah area code. His reply was a click and then silence.
October 16, 2018
If you ever owed money to the IRS you know that they never take gift cards as payment.
October 16, 2018
I work at a Walgreens, and I've stopped quite a few of these scams over the last few years. It's so common that I start asking questions whenever someone wants to buy a high value Google or iTunes card. I've even seen cases where the scammer is on the phone with the victim and is walking them through the process. Some people don't want to hear the truth. I had one guy come back 3 times asking "are you sure it's a scam? Are you sure I didn't win a government grant?" And I had one guy who absolutely refused to believe it was a scam, and kept buying cards until we cut him off, and then he started sending his co-workers in to buy cards.
FTC Staff
October 17, 2018

In reply to by Cymond

Thank you for watching out for the scams and warning people when you see the danger signs.

January 26, 2019

In reply to by FTC Staff

Can I get help with my dad who was scammed out of $4,000 when he purchased Best Buy cards?
September 16, 2020

In reply to by SadDaughter

My Dad was scammed by people who pretended to be from Microsoft and Amex. We involved the police and recordes calls from scammers. He ended up buying 10K of gift cards. It was devastating. Amex still holds him responsible for paying and for interest.
October 26, 2018

In reply to by Cymond

Cymond, I purchased my ITunes cards at Walmart, they were not in the least concerned. I got 6 x 50. It was easy to get them, I felt very uneasy about it and I still followed through with it. When the benefit was not delivered in the time stated. I dared to call back I was now told I need to pay an additional sum to complete the transaction
FTC Staff
October 26, 2018

In reply to by Scammed1024

Don't send more money or gift cards to those callers. You can report the scam to the FTC at The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC uses for investigations.

Lillian Ortega…
June 14, 2019

In reply to by Scammed1024

I just experienced a similar scam and being unemployed and with all of the problems I'm going thru, (I know that's no excuse) but it started with an automated phone call saying that $399 was taken from my account for a windows update. Had I been on my game, I know windows does not charge and updates are done differently & I would have checked my bank accounts for pending items. But stupid me didn't do that and I called the number back. At first the guy kept threatening to lock my laptop and I told him I needed it for job search. That's who they target....people looking for work or applying for a loan. Well then he said to go to Target and purchase 3 gift cards in the amount of $500 each knowing that I only had $1,522.33 in my EDD account. When I was to type in the $400 that they owed, I caught that James entered another zero very quickly and moved on faster than you would not believe. Well this showed that I now had $5,522.33 in my account, so I told him since he was able to enter the money just to take the $4,000 out as they never really took $400 from me. He kept saying that he was unable to at which point I asked for a supervisor, guess what? He was the supervisor. So when I was to go to Target I was to leave my laptop on and stay on the phone with him. Now, again I know better than this, but with a foggy mind, not thinking. I'm in the process of filing a report and trying to get my money back.
December 13, 2019

In reply to by carp5

Did anyone ever get there money back from the irs scamming elderly people and telling them to buy gift cards? My mom ..... ugh i can hardly type i’ve been a wreck all day . My dad passed a year ago and my mom had saved and worked her whole life as did my dad. My mom, just lost *EVERYTHING *!! Everything, they told her so many lies and she was scared to death. When i say she has lost everything, They empties all her accounts, took her assets, I am so upset my mom is 76 yrs old & this is so devastating. She was moving up here to help me and my family and we were all gonna be together. I was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and it’s not good. Now, My mom can’t leave she paid off her house 10 yrs ago, she owns a brand brand new truck that apparently they told her it was there not . All her life she was the best mom . I don’t know how much longer i’ll be here cuz my cancer has metastasized. i can’t tell my mom this, not while she’s alone. I am so absolutely devastated that people can do this. The likelihood they get her money back they said was , ugh Please if anyone knows anything about the irs scene telling elders to pay with gift cards, target, eBay please help me . I need my mom and vice versa. My kids need their nana & at this point We won’t ever see each other again as I can’t travel and these worthless non humane creatures are out preying on our mothers and fathers Ty for Any help
June 29, 2020

In reply to by carp5

I had a loan company called me Thursday, said I was approve for 3000 .00 said I had to pay 150.00for app fee and that they only took ebay gift card,I did that and then they said something about my credit to where I ended up giving them 1200 dollars and now they say they need another 400 because something on my social security number so they say another 400 landfill get this loan,what should I do and they say that they are affiliated with ebay
Don't use your…
October 27, 2018

In reply to by Cymond

Thank you for caring and doing more than your job. Sad that people buy into these scams.
January 21, 2019

In reply to by Cymond

This just happened to me on Friday. I seriously wish that the ppl here cared like you do. Even tho I knew it was a scam I was panicked, something that has never happened to me before. I finally snapped out of it. I still have the unused gift card but no money in the bank now.
May 11, 2019

In reply to by S.Caldwell

Today I was involve in google play scam. They scam me out of $400 The total I had in checking account. The scammer told me I had warrants an I needed to take all the money out of my account so he would report the judge to lift warrent an the social security would give me a new #. I gave the scammer the code from the google play card an they stole the money.
June 25, 2019

In reply to by FLYBOY

Flyboy my mom was hit with the same damn one yesterday! I hope you were able to recover well!
April 22, 2019

In reply to by Cymond

Has anyone heard of a woman supposedly with DHHS requesting $450 via ITunes gift cards or an Amazon gift card? If the person buys the card, gives this woman the number on the back, she then authorizes a $10,000 payment via UPS. She contacts people via Facebook messenger but you can't go to her profile, so it's all through messenger her trying to get this money, and believe me she is a pitbull trying to get it too. I used my negotiation skills and told her by XX-XX-XXXX I would pay $50, which I will not do and reported her instead, then found these comments. I was searching for anything about this scam. No, I did fall for it and won't send my hard earned money to anyone I do not know personally. She is going by AnnMarie Sylla, or he whatever the case may be. Yes that's how the name shows up through the messenger app. Whoever this is has also contacted a friend of mine, who unfortunately sent the $450 gift card. I'm too skeptical of people I don't know because of this reason!
Oh the Horror
May 22, 2019

In reply to by Midnight

Oh my goodness, I too have been scammed by this network of people with DHHS! Let me tell you how they got me. First, let me say DHHS supposedly stands for Disability of Health and Human Services. I received an email through my college email account about a job offer. Who would think that's not legitimate? It was for a PA; personal assistant, position for a doctor (Dr. Robert Valerie) who's currently in Australia working with disabled students. It's discussing part-time work for an hour of work for 3 days a week paying $320 dollars a week. My job was supposed to entail mailing letters, make payments at Walmart, and make purchases for disabled individuals in my area. I'm a starving student so I figure every little bit of income helps right? Umm, not if you're getting scammed baby. (On a side note, how in the world did these people know I had a weak spot for disabled people, arts and culture, social services, among other interests of mine?) Did they pull my school file with my classes, discover past jobs I've had, google searches? What?? This is scary that people can find out our personal interests, desires, soft spots, or whatever and prey upon you like a hyena in the wild. I'm shook!!! So this morning was my first day and received my first assignment. NOW PAY ATTENTION: The genius part of this deception is that you're sent a check via email, you print it out (on business checks that you're required to purchase but he reimburses you), then cash the check (mobile deposit in my case). So I'm basically getting the money I'm supposed to have in order to run the errands and complete the tasks. I've never been a PA before but this seems fine. I mean, it's not like I'm paying for anything using my own money. He does everything by text message but initial communication was through email. He texts around 6 am in the morning saying he needs the first task done right away. I need to withdraw the money (the check he emailed me) and go purchase 9- $100 Amazon gift cards. He wanted to know when I got to the atm, when I got to the store, when I was finished purchasing the cards, then wanted a picture of the receipts with each gift card scratched off. It sounded strange but I'd never heard or knew of gift card scams. I did wonder why he seemed rushed and keeping tabs on my every move until cards were purchased. I was thinking gosh this doctor is demanding and maybe that's why he needs a PA because nobody can put up with him. From reading all the comments I know why this criminal was rushed. Said he would contact me with next assignment. I was thinking in a day or two. Nope, he contacts me later today and says his financial department emailed me another check and needed to deposit it right away. I get home and deposit it via mobile phone again. He always asks for receipts of the checks, the deposits, and even for the business checks I purchased. I thought it was for filing, accounting, and tax purposes. Then he asks if I had extra cash to get part of my assignment done tonight. I ask what is the assignment and he states he needs more gift cards. At this point my spidey senses are tingling and I'm starting to wonder whats going on. He says he needs $2000 in gift cards but I reply I can only do $1000. I already deposited the 2nd check "his company" sent and was waiting for it to clear in a few hours. The place only had 7- $100 Amazon cards. Meanwhile, while trying to purchase them my bank detected fradulent activity so froze my account. I'm so glad they did this because this caused me to call them and while doing that the manager of the store was at the front counter this time. He mentioned to me how these cards are being used in scams. He said people ask for the codes on the back via phone or online. OH THE HORROR I felt. I still was uncertain because of how I came across this person and went to my car to call him. I wanted clarification on things, verification of who he was, and wanted him to list these "supposed" tasks I was supposed to complete. No answer and I tried several times. Let me also mention that he kept texting me and even called me while I was still at the store trying to reach my bank and find out what the problem was. When I answered the phone twice, twice there was no response but he would text me right after. Smh. As to verify I was still there and reachable but couldn't talk on the phone because of being overseas and reception bs. I tell him they only had 7- $100 cards and I had to go somewhere else for the other 3. He insisted I send pictures of the 7 now and send pictures of the other 3 right after I purchased them. I said I'd get the other 3 and send pictures of all 10 together. He said no and wanted them now. That was the straw that broke the camels back and I knew something was not right about this situation. I smelled a fishy situation and I was not in a seafood joint. My gut was tugging at me and I said screw this, I'm going home. So after many back and forth texts with this guy I told him I believed he is a fraud, he can't verify who he is, I'm calling my school first thing in the morning, I'm calling the police, and starting calling numbers and searching online for gift card scams. I'm mortified at the results which ultimately lead me here. I called Amazon and the first batch of cards were already used. No surprise there. I'm at least glad I followed my instincts when it came to using my own money and snapped out of the daze of stupidity and didn't give him the information for the 2nd batch of cards. I feel like such an idiot.
February 12, 2020

In reply to by Oh the Horror

Hi, this same thing happened to me. I am a low-income student also, so I know how good of a position it sounded like. I didn't cash the check though. I actually asked the person for two pieces of identification so that I could verify her identity, but she just asked me why I needed it and that she would be back in town next month to conduct the interview. She wanted me to perform the tasks of buying and snapping pictures of gift cards. Yeah, right. (eye roll) I'm not about to cash a $2000 check and potentially get arrested. I reported the incident immediately after they started talking about gift cards. If I can help it, I refuse to be anybody's fool. Everybody, beware of things that seem too good to be true.
August 17, 2019

In reply to by Cymond

That is very good of you, I wish my Walgreens attendant would have questioned me
Kerry for Cons…
November 12, 2019

In reply to by Cymond

That's so good and right of you to protect customers this way. The big companies who know people get scammed this way need to learn from you and have cashiers and their online stores advise that email requests to buy a card can come directly from a family or friend's email address, but be fraudsters who have hacked that email account.
October 16, 2018
If anyone calls me demanding some kind of payment with a gift card all they will get is me laughing and hanging up. Then the number gets blocked.
October 17, 2018
Easy way to reduce telephone scammers is to use an answering machine. We get a lot of callers who just hang up when the machine kicks in. Telephone with answering machine costs around $50. A lot cheaper than being scammed out of your life savings.
October 17, 2018
I work at Target and after less than a year I have personally turned away 3 older people trying to buy gift cards for large amounts. We who work in retail can put a stop to this by doing our due diligence. Ask questions when someone wants to buy large amounts of gift cards. One lady kept getting calls from her "grandson" while she was trying to convince me he needed the money. I told her it wasn't money, these giftcards can only be used at Target. I told her to please right away call the parent of this grandchild who was her son or daughter. The "grandson" was trying to keep her on the phone so she couldn't call anyone. In the end she left promising to make that call. I did what I could.
FTC Staff
October 17, 2018

In reply to by Lisamanv

Thank you for talking with people and helping them avoid the scams.

June 19, 2019

In reply to by Lisamanv

My daughter got scammed just last Monday, June 17, 2019 at the amount of $1,900.00 (2 $950 Target giftcard). The scammer told her that she’s involved in money laundering, drug trafficking and multiple stolen accounts worth $243,000. the guy told her they knew her Social Security. She also needs to pay $2,000.00 to take the allegations off her name. They told her to buy a Target giftcard amounting to $1,900.00! They even told her that she shouldn't let anybody know about this. My poor daughter fell on this stupid scammer!
October 18, 2018
I bought a gift card at Publix, didn't mail it out until several days later. The person I gifted tried to use the card and the merchant said it was cancelled. I called VISA and was told the card was used the day after I bought it. At that time I still had the card. Be aware of buying gift cards at Publix in Delray Beach, Florida
October 18, 2018
I work in a retail store and see this every day. The customers never believe me and my co workers when we try to explain to them that they are being scammed. We give them information and telephone numbers and were are the ones that are wrong. We don't know what we are talking about.
FTC Staff
October 19, 2018

In reply to by grumpy

Thank you to you and your coworkers for talking with people and trying to protect them. It's really helpful for you to do that, and you're going to make a difference for someone.

Mtn mamaDon't …
October 22, 2018
How about alerts for using Western Union to pay the FTC for winnings at Publisher's Clearing House?
Scammed but good
October 26, 2018
I've been scammed just a few days ago. I only had $340 in my bank and was asked to put on a Google play. Told it would be kept for safe keeping. Then walked thru overdrafting my account for $200 then asked to put in the only cash I needed for another card. So grand total was $590 plus $35 overdraft fees. Kept me on the phone the whole time I bought them. Yes fool but convenced me if I didn't help I'd be spending up to 9 years in prison. Shame on them all. Shame on me for being so follish.
FTC Staff
October 26, 2018

In reply to by Scammed but good

You can report this to the FTC at The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC uses for investigations.

You can also report to Google Play. Call 1 (855) 466-4438. The chart in this blog has a website for Google Play, in case you want to report online.

Scammed Grandmother
October 26, 2018
Sadly my grandmother who is cognitively delayed was scammed this year by someone. She is very angry that we stopped her from buying cards and that a girl at the gas station stopped her as well. I am thankful they were aware of the situation and people told us, but I am sad she was taken advantage of. She is on a fixed income from disability since she has never been able to maintain a job. This isn't the first scam this year either. Someone sold her a knee brace over the phone saying Medicaid would pay for it.
October 29, 2018
i worked on bank call center ..disputes and it is very sad to see how easy older people get scam out of their life savings and UNFORTUNATELY this charges are not disputable, that said thank you all conscientious retail workers doing the right thing
October 29, 2018
scammed b y internet service to clean computer . scammed by using walmart gift card transaction, to refund me my money, tweakbit scam
October 30, 2018
I have been scammed of 2100.00 . I'm trying to report it but the report won't let me because I don't know the company's name that scammed me. it wasn't a company , it was someone pretending to work for the government issuing government grants for $150,000.
FTC Staff
October 30, 2018

In reply to by james

When you report to the FTC at, you can skip a line in the report. You don't have to fill in every part of the complaint form. Give as much information as you have. The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations. Thank you.

September 17, 2019

In reply to by DPmuser123on't…

I have a guy texting me right now for a steam wallet card
December 12, 2019

In reply to by Fmajors19

Was the persons name Mark Paul Vincent. That is the name of the person that was texting me about a steam wallet gift card. He was using the WhatsApp
July 25, 2020

In reply to by Fmajors19

I had the same thing last night. I was supposedly talking to someone on Timder. Then we used skype. He said he was running out of minutes and asked me to get a steam card. I never heard of one before. I'm not buying something for someone I don't know. I ended up blocking him. I feel like an idiot. He didn't get the card but I wasted time.
Help my mother
August 16, 2020

In reply to by Me

My mother is being scammed by an internet romancer through Steam cards. He says he is a fellow American is worth millions. He says he is on an oil rig near Turkey. They type to one another and he voice calls her through Google Hangouts. He keeps demanding hundreds of dollars each week. Has her buy Steam cards, scratch off the back, and send him a photo of the code and the receipt. She won't listen to me because she thinks she is going to marry a millionaire. It gets worse- she's a senior citizen who lost her husband not even a year ago. I need to catch this guy!!!
December 30, 2020

In reply to by Help my mother

Omg help me I have a gut doing the same thing too me portraying that he’s in the military deployed in Western Africa but he has me using google play
August 27, 2021

In reply to by Help my mother

I am actually talking to a man named Gray who says he is on an oil rig in Turkey. We have been having a romance for about two months first through text and then through hangouts. I knew he was to good to be true. He just asked me to send him an apple gift card to be able to pay for phone credits. Says he is wealthy, even sent me a copy of his contract on the oil rig… Is this what happened to your mother? What was the mans name?
Unique Butterflies
August 03, 2019

In reply to by james

I got hit for over $3000. Fortunately, I have names, phone numbers and even personal puctures of some of the people who scammed me. My family hit rock bottom after my husband was blown up in Afghanistan. Talk about a kick in the gut.