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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.

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October 31, 2018
I was told I was chosen to perform a mystery shopper. I have done it before so I didn’t think nothing of it. They sent me a check in the mail for $2420. I was told to get take $420 out for my payment and take the remaining $2000 to Walmart to purchase gift cards. When my bank held the check and I told them it was on hold that was the last time I heard from them. Now I’m in the hole for the $2420. They assured me it would go through. You just can’t believe in good helpful people. Instead they target the vunerable and people who are desperate for money. This is a learning lesson for me
January 11, 2019

In reply to by Key035

I just had the same scam happen to me but they sent a check for $3350.56 and told me that I keep $350..But instead of depositing the check I looked up the bank online and called to verify that the check was good or not... Good thing I did because it was a fraudulent check. So my suggestion is to always verify the check first and only use the phone number from the bank's real website. Do not use it off the check... Oh and if the bank address is an P. O. Box address then it's most likely a fake check.
My friend
November 03, 2018
She claims the crown prince of Dubai is talking to her via Facebook and Instagram and is in love with her, wants her to leave her husband for him. Conveniently he needs her to send him $500 for a ticket plus buy HIM an iTunes card and his father an Amazon card. I've tried to warn her, sent her links to these articles about scammers but she's 100% convinced it's real and she's going to marry him once she's divorced.
November 05, 2018
I got a friend named Jeffery Hayford, Pennsylvania. He contacted me a few times, and he asked me to send him an I tune Gift card. I told him I didnt want to send him any gift card, and he got very mad. I blocked him on Facebook.
November 08, 2018
Hello all, could someone please explain where do you buy these gift cards that scammers request. Do you buy them in official Itunes store or some other website??
November 16, 2018
Gift cards should be taken off the market. Gift cards always work in favor of the issuer: people routinely lose or forget them and that money stays with the company - literally a Billion dollars a year. Consumers are losing money. And now we are being scammed. Please take these off the market.
November 22, 2018
Thank you for all your information I am attempting to get a loan online now and have had several problems in the past been through to other Banks and bad check writing and other issues however everything I've learned I'm putting it to use unfortunately it's not an easy task to get a loan online they always want something called insurance. Is Insurance a legitimate reason for your loan say $100 for $5,000 loan? And that is on a vanilla card they told me would be fine but not a NetSpend card which is all over the world. They are just reloadable cards.
FTC Staff
June 14, 2019

In reply to by Ranbo

If a lender wants you to pay money before it will lend money, that's a danger sign. It's also risky to send money to someone you don't know by gift card. A legitimate lender won't charge you a fee before it gives you a loan.

This FTC article tells more warning signs of scam lenders that charge fees before they lend: Advance-Fee Loans

December 02, 2018
I just learned 3 days ago that my husband, a disabled Veteran with PTSD, was scammed by a person on Instagram posting as his favorite female singer. The "relationship" has been going on for 6+ months. She had him convinced they would run away together but she needed to help him clear his credit first. She would ask for multiple gift cards at a time and asked for his info for all bank and credit accounts so she could reimburse his accounts. Instead, a deposit made, then cards purchased, then deposits get reversed. $40,000 later, we're trying to figure out what to do. No negatives...I love my husband and I understand his illness.
June 30, 2019

In reply to by Shellyg

Wow my husband told me he had been having a relationship and he is in love with this girl he met online. she will take care of me he said. He sent her $300 in gift cards and she sent him $2000 3 days ago. And asked him to keep $300 for his bill and buy her more gift cards. And she will send her more money. I'm freaking out... he doesn't believe me when I say it's a scam
September 15, 2019

In reply to by Shellyg

Was this favorite female singer by any chance Reba McEntire? I am currently trying to stop this same type madness happening with my father. Nothing is working to convince him ... he's lost his home and practically everything he owns .... he now has had to move in with me. STILL it persists! Money sent via Wells Fargo, iTunes, Amazon, MoneyGram, RIA, Western Union ..... has given all of his personal info and acct numbers PLUS this person knows my address, names, kids names!!!!! I have tried calling all of these wire transfer companies and they cannot do anything to stop him!!
December 14, 2018
I report scammers to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram daily. And the next few days I get scammers ten fold asking the same questions over and over! I have called the local sheriff's office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the FBI and INTERPOL, They don't care either! I suspect some of these scammers work in these agencies!
December 24, 2018
I get a lot of female Facebook friends who will call me all kinds if "Dears" and "Honey" then after a few days ask for an Amazon or iTunes gift card. I tell them, "I may have been at night but it wasn't last night." Then I block them.
December 26, 2018
i have been scammed for 2000 and now being threatened if dont pay 10.000to fbi for a bribe will be aressted has this happed to anyone else?
January 10, 2019
The authority that investigates the IRS version of these scams is TIGTA (this inspector general for tax administration). They have made many busts recently and they are frequently a combo of international set-ups with "associates" in the U.S. to make the scam convincing. They can display local phone numbers and they use intimidation as a tactic - which can be effective as it's unexpected. Be prepared - even if they bust the operation you will very like never see the money you lost.
January 21, 2019
November 10, 2018 I was contacted by someone reportedly from the promotion dept. of Direct TV . They said if I wanted my monthly bill reduced by a considerable amount per month for 2 years to send them by Amazon gift card of $360 for the first 3 months and the monthly change would show up on my Dec. statement. When the statement came and no reduction showed I immediately called the phony telephone # they provided and they said they would look into it. Then the Jan statement came and I called the customer service # at Direct TV and they were unaware of any promotion. After many calls to Direct TV and At&T and Amazon and my CC company I find I have been scammed and there is no recourse since I called too late to get any results...
January 23, 2019
I received a phone call yesterday saying the order I placed on line from Microsoft was overcharged. After 3 hours on the phone he made me leave the room and had gotten into my credit union account and showed a transfer from Chase of $3000. The overcharge was $350 but they could not transfer that small amount si then how to pay back the difference. Go to 3 different stores and buy a$500 goggle card and stay on the phone with him I knew now it was a scam. Hung up called my credit union they told me he had transferred that money from my savings account it was not a transfer from Chase. They froze all my accounts. Have to take my computer to be checked out cleaned up check for viruses and csnt use my debit cards or any banking til this is done. Devastated I am retired from the banking business and feel so stupid. Have no idea how much of my banking info he got. Living in Ga taking care of my 92 year old parents and there is not my credit union here. Probably have to change all my bank accounts and my bank credit cards. I had placed an on line order from Microsoft a week ago so that is the only reason he got as far as he did. An Asian accent and room full of other people I could hear calling other people. BEWARE! My 92 year old dad said get rid of the computer glad I haven't had one he said.
January 25, 2019
My mother in law received a call from someone claiming to be her grandson. Said he was in an accident and had been arrested... then asked her for money. He insisted he didn't want to call his parents until he worked things out and would tell them after he was out of jail. When she asked how she could get it to him, he replied gift cards... $2000.00 worth. He suggested several types of cards, but she replied that she couldn't walk to those places, so he suggested Best Buy. She walked into Best Buy and tried to buy a $2000.00 gift card. They told her they couldn't sell a card with that high of an amount and instead sold her four $500.00 cards. No one asked or suggested to this 87 year old woman that it may be a scam. She walked back home and the phone rang in the promised time window ( they said they'd call her back in an hour-they did not leave a number for her to call them.) As feared, she gave them the cards. Once they had that money they asked for $2000.00 more. At that point, she got worried and called her grandson, who was fine and at work. My mother in law is not a stupid person, but she was fooled by their knowledge of her and the person "sounding like her grandson". These people prey on the elderly and their affection for loved ones. I called Best Buy and spoke with a manager to alert them to the scam and to ask them to encourage their associates to inquire about large gift card purchases, but their only reply was that she can try to dispute with her bank. I'm fairly sure nothing can be done with the bank either. Once gift cards are issued, there is little recourse. Very expensive and sad lesson for mom.
January 31, 2019
I have a new "scammer" friend on Hangouts. He can't do video or phone call, because he supposedly "works on an oil rig" and there are "pirates and rebels" that can attack the ship. I told him every scammer says the same BS he was saying. Just today he asked about sending him gift card. Yeah right...
February 09, 2019

In reply to by sen

Yes the oil rig guy... I had him... can’t send him wire transfers because all his friends have been reported so they can’t get wire transfers...
March 03, 2019

In reply to by jlm

I have been in contact with him. Pretty sure I have been scammed. Yet, why do I still believe him and Wonder if is not a scam
April 29, 2019

In reply to by Patterson#4

I'm in contact with the oil rig guy. He's very good, I question whether hes scamming too, he sent pics, I did a reverse photo image search, he's taking pics off a guy from Isreals Facebook page. But he has us married and living in Ireland. Just as long as I send Google Play cards, WTH!!!
September 12, 2019

In reply to by Patty65

Do you have a picture of this guy because I'm currently talking to a man that works on a rig and he asked for a gift card this morning
February 22, 2020

In reply to by Patty65

I think I’ve met this guy online too have you a photo of him
May 09, 2019

In reply to by sen

I jusg met a guy that says he works on a oil rig also! Right claims hes inNorway! Cant have any calls or videos Calls..could cause an explosion..but is running out of data..wants me to purchase a google hang out card for him and just take a pic of it. And show him and he can load it..because he loves me so deeply and doesnt want to loose contact with me..even though weve only talked for 3 days..met on instegraham..and he suggested this site..saysi ts more secure..says im his shinning starr and all he has in this world ..wants to marrg me. Wanted a $ 2oo card ..I screamed no way so he will settle for $ 100 or $50..proclaims to be a forman on a oil rig- Thomas forman..
Po10Shell Victim
May 18, 2019

In reply to by sen

I had an oil rig marine engineer (at least that's what he said) allegedly out in the Indian Ocean so couldn't use cell phone or video feature on Hangouts due to Pirates. He had a good line and was very sweet and kind until I wouldn't send him iTune gift cards...he became rude and demanding and wouldn't talk with me after that. I got suckered into the romance, however. He was intelligent and said his first language was German but he had lived in the UK since age 19 (after both parents were killed in a car crash). He said his wife had been a doctor but died 6 years ago and he had a 17 year old daughter in an English boarding school. He even had the daughter email me...she had very poor English and she obviously spoke another language but she said her only language was English. Anyway, the scam is interesting...I'm curious how the scammers can manipulate and mesmerize intelligent women! I'm glad I didn't send him anything...but my heart is a bit broken. Interesting how the heart and mind aren't always aligned with one another!
December 27, 2019

In reply to by Po10Shell Victim

Hello, something similar happened to me.. what could he have done with that I tunes gift card if you bought it?
Almost a scam victum
February 12, 2019
I was contacted by some one on a dating website. After talking to the man for 4 days. Asked me to get him an Amazon gift card. Online and from walmart. Demanding it right now. The man's phone number is Calif. This person is a scammer.
July 13, 2020

In reply to by Almost a scam victum

What dating site and what was his screen name? I had something similar from a California number but asking for a Steam Card to make international calls.
February 12, 2019
After talking to a man online dating service for 4 days. Today he demand a Amazon gift card. As it was urgent wanted to buy things on thr card. He said that he didnt get paid. Told me that he would pay me back. By the way this man has a foreign accent on the phone. This guy is an scammer. Never get a gift card. I didnt get one and wont get one. As i wont be scammed by him. Once you put money on the card. It is gone. Can only use it at stores.
February 14, 2019
Yes met someone on Pacer then it went to hangouts been texting for 2 months now all was Okay until he asked for iTunes card said he had no internet on his phone also working on Oil Rig since I said no deal for iTunes card our conversation are short May he found a better sucker!
February 26, 2019
I was a victim of this scan today and didn't know about the gift card approach. It was a representative masking the call from Apple, Inc., that included technical support. I feel so foolish for falling into this trap!
February 27, 2019
I feel so stupid that I fell for this scam. My conscience told me it was wrong but like other people, he told me to stay on the phone while I purchased the cards. I gave the numbers off the back and he told me they didn't work and asked me to go and buy two more cards. I screamed at him that I would NOT buy more cards and hung up on him. By then, it was too late. I am out $200 but it could have been worse. I am so mad at myself for falling for this.
New Retiree
May 10, 2019

In reply to by NavyMom

I got scammed out of $1,500 yesterday. Call was supposedly from Apple support about a security breach. Someone must have dipped me in a vat of stupidity. Bought 3 GamePlay cards with American Express card. They will do nothing. Even though I reported it immediately. Today the first card was posted to my credit card. They referred to the Google Play card as a key needed to resolve my security issues which were a level 3. I’m so angry with myself and so embarrassed. It wasn’t until it was too late that I read all the Information about gift card scams.
February 28, 2019
I am a victim of these scams and for months been trying to stop them from continuing asking for more. When I tell them no they call my job over and over again. The other day they called my job 561 times. It is none stop until I purchase a gift card and send them the code. I don't know how to stop it. I have made complaints with the FTC, FBI and any gift card I have purchased, but it continues. I don't know what to do at this point.
March 06, 2019
My mother just fell for this scam two days ago. Since she was the one that bought the gift cards with her credit card, is there any way to get the money back, or is she out of luck?? Is there anything she can do? She's already reported the gift cards to Google Play, but this hasn't helped at all.
FTC Staff
June 14, 2019

In reply to by HLS

After you tell someone the codes from the back of the gift cards, they can take the value of the gift cards. After the value of the cards is used, you can't get it back.

After you tell someone the codes, you might be able to contact the company that issued the cards, and ask the company to prevent anyone from using the codes. But usually, when scammers get the codes, they use them immediately, before people can ask a company to block them. I think you're saying your mother tried to get card issuer to block the codes, but it didn't work.

March 08, 2019
He said he is going to send me money so I can come over to visit,first he was going to do it through western union but send me he can't do it because there is to much scammers,then he said I must buy a gift card of $50 but I didn't have money to buy it but then he said he will send me cash through FedEx,I received a mail that the package is on its way a day after the packaged arrived at Nigeria customs but I had to pay $200 because it was overweight I didn't pay the money but he is threatening me and I don't know if this a real deal or not
March 08, 2019
I was scammed after recieving money orders. I actually went to the FBI with them and they had nothing to report that it was a scam. So I cashed the money orders at CHASE bank and waited for them to clear, which they did, so I used the money to mystery shop and buy Amazon gift cards. 2 weeks later, Chase got back to me that they were fraudulent and that I owed them the money back and also charged me $12 each for the 6 money orders that were "returned" CHASE closed my checking account after being a good customer for over 25 years even after I showed them the reports I had filed with several Gov't agencies including the US Postal service. Banks should be held accountable for not verifying money orders when customers come in person to the bank.
March 09, 2019
I've been victim of a Amazon gift card scam last week Monday. It all started with an email that I got through work. I work at a university and the President's email had been compromised. The email stated she was tied up in a seminar and need me to get some gift card for the board. The number one mistake was answering that email and giving my personal cell number. Because now the person impersonating the president started texting me with a list of instructions. I was told to buy two Amazon gift cards each valued at $500. I charged those cards on my Master Card. Then was persuaded to buy another card at $400. I used my Visa for that one. I was given instructions to take pics of the gift cards, receipts, and the code on back of the Amazon gift card and send it via MMS. Well this person stated they were going to reimburse me once I got to the campus. They stated the board appreciates me helping them out with the task. I got to work and went into the President's office and said I have the Amazon gift cards you requested. She looked at me like I was from another planet. That's when I realized that I was scammed out of $1400. I called Amazon to see if codes were redeemed and they had been. I had to call my bank to cancel credit cards. I then went to Milwaukee Police Department to file a report with them. I wish the Walgreen's employee would've said something that it might be a scam. I was in a hurry and never took the time to process everything. I just want to let people know don't feel stupid or a shame. Because these con artist do this for a living and know how to get you. I do agree that gift cards should be obsolete. I did file an online complaint with the FTC and hopefully the data will be used. I can only hope KARMA will catch up to the person who scammed me out of my hard earned money.
March 13, 2019
I was scamped up until the very point of giving my gift cards over to the seller. I had a feeling to just do a little more research and then I learned to not pay with gift cards, but now what do I do with them. The merchant will not red fund the money and the store says deal with the merchant?! How do I get my cash back?
Sheepish in Sa…
March 13, 2019
I was texted by my boss yesterday, apparently she was in a meeting and couldnt call, wanted to know of i was available to do her a favor. Could i go get a couple of Google Play giftcards for her. Knowing my boss, i thought nothing of it, even notified my supervisor of my “errand”. Got to the local supermarket, texted back the card denominations as requested. To my suprise she wanted the $500 card, 2 of them. Once purchased, she wanted to know the code on the back. Which i supplied. She thanked me and asked if i could do 2 more, which i did, under the understanding i could expense the cost. Again, i did as instructed. Then i was asked for a 3rd time, this was starting to pinch the budget, but i know she’s good for it. Same proceedure, purchase then report the code. Apparently im slow on the uptake. I was asked if i could do a 4th round and i replied no, and i was told it was really omportant, and could i “find the money somewhere”... then it hit me that it was all a scam. No way she’d ever request more than i could freely give. Called my bank, no help, called Google, no help, went to the store manager, ( which is what Google said to do) could not help. Filed FBI and local police report, but still out $3000. My boss was shocked when we finally made contact, and graciously refunded 1/2 of the loss out of the goodness of her heart. Stupid should hurt, so i accept the lesson, and will be more wary in the future. Be aware, ive seen emails, and phone calls trying this scam, but not texts coming from specific people. It was a perfect storm, A text from a known and trusted person, she was actually out of the office at a meeting and could not be reached, i actually had the funds available, and i was, at that moment available to perform an errand. Watch out!
March 23, 2019
Isn't is possible for the card companies to make bogus cards for scammers that look real? Why can't the companies offering gift cards help control these scammers. Can't the cards be tracked as far as purchases? Wouldn't the gift cars companies be willing to help curb this behavior?
March 30, 2019
I am the victim of a scam that said they were Apple Tech Support. I was instructed to buy Google Play cards to track the hackers if my iPad. Has anyone been able to get their money back. Looking for any advice.
April 06, 2019
Scammers using DirectTV with an EBAY promo code will get 50% off bill for the next 3 years with a pre payment of 4 months up front payment using EBAY gift cards, and then of course you never get what they sell. You lose all money on gift cards as soon as you scratch off number and read to them.
April 12, 2019
I just got an email from a Christina William saying that if I don’t settle an old debt at a reduced cost of course, I would be served by law enforcement. And, the kicker is they want me to use a Google debit card which solidified scam to me.
Never 2 old
April 13, 2019
I thought I was calling customer service for Travelocity. I wanted to combine two flights. ok I know now that the call went to a call center, prob in India although the call back # showed Ariz. Anyway same as Sam 1212. But, I was thinking, on card #2, this is crazy for a rep to want to stay on line while you find Google play cards especially since they are not refundable. I didn't know what Google play was but now I have 2 cards for $500 and trying to reach Google. By the way so far can't reach Google. Try to report it to Expedia no one wanted to listen. Paid too much as ticket cost kept going up as I searched for the correct help
Shade Tree
April 14, 2019
I have been scammed from people using amazon gift cards promising me money....I need this investigated immediately....