Skip to main content

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.
Search Terms

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

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.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

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.

just me
April 18, 2019
I purchased something online, was told that the cost would be $600. Then I was called and told that for first time purchases it must be paid through Google Play card, after that it can be with debit/credit card. I called to give the numbers from the cards and after a few minutes of being on hold, I was told that there had been an issue with shipping and that the package (that was already shipped according to him) had more items than I paid for and that they required an additional $500. I told him that I didn't have the extra $500 and that I would return the package. He states that he will stop the package if I do not pay the additional $500 and I would have to wait until a few more weeks for my package because a new one would have to be shipped out. I am sure I will never see what I purchased, nor will I eve see the $600.
April 25, 2019
Today i was a victim of a scam. I received a call allegedly from social security saying someone was using my social and was buy all sorts of stuff. That i had two options to admit and face 30 years of prison time or take out all my money and put into a google play card so they can track down who ever is using my social. Then i received a call from my local police station confirming this and so i did. I didn't give the person the numbers of the google play card because i realized what i was doing was weird. I then started to ask a bunch of questions and they said you are not complying with us and are admitting to the crime therefore we will have to go and arrest you and then clicked. So now i am stuck with a google play card with all my money in there and no way to get it back. I don't know what to do the rent is coming up. If anyone has any advice on how i can get my money back from the google play card let me know it will really help.
S bays
April 30, 2019
I bought a Google play card before I could use it it was already used and now Google play will not replace it and I feel it's very unfair I have been
May 01, 2019
Received a call from supposed DIRECTV promotion office. If you will pay four months payment as once ($79 per month), you will only pay $79 a month for the next 2 years. Since I pay $200 a month now...oh and he had my account number too, I said yes. He wanted me to go buy EBay gift cards worth $320 and then call the DIRECTV billing office (888-275-1951) with a promotion code he gave me. He did insist this was not a scam and his incoming phone number was 800-331-5000, Directv’s Number is 800-531-5000. I called DIRECTV as soon as he hung up and, of course, it was a scam. Thank goodness I checked before purchasing the gift cards! Be careful out there
May 08, 2019
I just received a check for $3050.00. Asking me to deposit it in my checking and then visit an apple store to perform secret shopper and buy 2 gift cards. I am so glad I looked up the company's name.
Please dont do it
May 09, 2019
People come in my store everyday trying to buy gift cards related to scams. I always ask them. Do you know the person your sending the money to? Or ask them to think it thru, As in "why would you have to pay for _"____" with a gift card. Some people understand and won't buy. Others just buy the cards anyway. They look so scared. And all have the same response. " Its for my cousin" It breaks my heart to know that some of these people won't be able to pay bills and struggle to get by. I wish these companies would take the cards off the market. Especially Google Play and iTunes. No one uses these cards for a legit reason. There is no need for them. They are profiting off of the loss of others.
May 15, 2019
My boyfriend was contacted by someone on one of his social media apps. The person said they want to be his sugar daddy and they actually sent money and then asked for a $500 Amazon gift card. My boyfriend was thoroughly creeped out and the person became aggressive. Haven’t heard from him in 2 weeks and I hope it stays that way.
November 08, 2019

In reply to by Username123

Did he send you his own money to buy a gift card for himself?
December 20, 2019

In reply to by Luna0550264

This actually happened to me, yea if he/she was rich they wouldn't need the 500$ extra
May 16, 2019
Have anyone heard of a company Accion Research. They send you a cashiers check and ask you to deposit it in your checking account. Once you withdraw the money they ask that you purchase eBay and Google play gift cards. Then peel off silver scratch off capture clear images front and back send pictures.
June 03, 2019
these scams are becoming prevelant in todays dating websites, personally i have never been scammed because i refuse to send them to someone i've never met in person, and many are from out of country now
June 07, 2019
Hello !! I had to seek for information because someone I was chatting with from a Game Of Thrones Facebook page is trying to get an Amazon card with 100 dls . Claims to be a widow with 3 kids one teenage girl and two twin boys . He erased his Facebook account prior to ask me for the card stating he is ill in the hospital and he needs the card for his kids school project ( summer break started ) also he won’t leave any real phone number and can’t find him in a background check . Be aware
Beam me up Scotty
June 13, 2019
My sister was scammed out of most of her bank account today. Two packages arrived to her house, that she did not order, with the labeling Prime on them. Somehow she retrieved a number, not sure how yet. She called the number and the scammer began to tell her that her Amazon account was compromised in multiple states. He then asked her to go get $100 Google play card and call him back with the numbers at which time he would send somebody to pick up the packages. He escalated his story and scammed her into getting multiple cards for him.
June 26, 2019
Got scammed today, was told that I had a warrant out for my arrest etc was in a bad state of mind and this just hit the peak and panicked and ended up doing the gift card payment realized it too late, unfortunately don't think I'll be getting my money back
June 26, 2019
Hi I guess I’m needing some advice some help what to say and do please somebody. I met a man 3 yrs ago and said he was in the military and his parents both died in a car accident and he needed someone to talk to and keep him going. I felt bad so we started talking. He started asking me to get him gift cards and had me pick money up from Walmart for his roommate. I don’t know anything about this kind of stuff so I helped him. After getting over $1,000 from me I went to my son broke down and told him what happened. I have been battling cancer on treatments that give you poor judgment and sometimes I didn’t even realize that I sent him anything but somehow he got into my account and wiped me out. I’m on disability and broke facing to much to add onto what I am dealing with and going through already. I with help from my upset son somehow was able to block him from contacting me and asked me not to send money or cards to anyone ever again. I have a new phone and same number he’s trying to talk to me right now asking for some kind of Vanilla card and a Steam card. He’s been very pushy with his messages telling me I need to hurry up and get him some numbers cause he’s in the hospital got shot and he has to pay the hospital for pain medicine or he doesn’t get any and he’s suffering. I don’t know how to get him to go away and I don’t want to have to go to my son again. I was also called saying I had a warrant for my arrest and needed to give my bank information to pay them or the police was on there way to arrest me and take me to jail. They also told me that my Disability was being revoked because of having a criminal record now and if I didn’t want to lose everything I had to give my information so they could get payment. My son came running over cause I sent him a text saying they said I was going to jail and I had a warrant. I’ve never been in trouble so my son rushes over in record time and I’m in tears but when he gets on the phone and says something to him my son yelled and hung up the phone. We called the police and told them what happened but they did nothing about it. Now this George Johnson in the military is hounding me for money. How do I get all this to stop before I make a mistake?? Please someone if you can help me I’d appreciate it and would be so grateful!!!
FTC Staff
June 27, 2019

In reply to by Ladybug

When someone harasses you and threatens you over the phone, you can take steps to protect yourself. You could ask your son if there's a way to block certain phone numbers from ringing on your phone. You could call your phone service and tell them about the threatening calls and ask for help.

You could ask someone at the bank to help you protect your accounts.

You don't have to answer the phone when it rings. You can let people leave a message and call them back later when you feel ready. Scammers act really pushy and threaten people and try to make them act right now. They make up stories and try to make people feel bad for them. You can take steps to protect your money, and stop hearing the threats and harassment.

If you need more ideas, write to us again.

June 28, 2019
I was involved in a scam few months ago sending cards through for a crude oil company..
Mato Kuwapi
June 30, 2019
The newest approach is the scammer gets access to organization web sites, goes through the board members list either through it being posted on the club web site or via a club newsletter. They pretend to be the president of that club and send emails to it's board members, using proper first names. They ask for help, usually saying they are really in a time crunch but have to get some gift cards as donations for a club event, and they want you to do it because they don't have the time to get to it. Be very aware of the email address they are sending from. It will be different than the actual email address from said real person.
November 12, 2019
My mom was scammed out of about$10k from an online computer security guy. He claimed to be able to solve the over 150 hacking attempts on her computer. He remotes in and took over her gmail account and even forwarded all her incomeing mail to some ‘applecare5050@ account. Well I was able to solve the computer parts but not the almost 15 different transactions that her American Express card allowed to go thru. Now I just hope we can dispute some of these. I know the likelihood is slim, but Amex’s system should have flagged these transactions after the first couple. Just hoping for some resolution.
Disappointed A…
July 12, 2019
Amazon does NOT help in this situation. My mother was scammed out of $1200, Amazon didn't catch the scammers until they used $1000 despite the fact that my mom maid a claim well before this money was used. They are giving her $200.
August 18, 2020

In reply to by Disappointed A…

what did they use it on? Probably were buying their own product.
August 01, 2019
Someone sent out a text to the agents in my office making it look like it was me and told them I was in a meeting and needed them to go buy a gift card for me. One agent called the office to talk to me and I was doing some training, so when they told her I was in a meeting, she thought the text was legitimate and that I needed the card for the meeting. The texter was texting her to hurry and what is taking her so long. She just showed up in the office with a $500 gift card for Nordstrom Rack which is non-refundable
dazed and scammed
August 09, 2019
Happened to me today. I was very busy at work when a email came in from my uncle asking for gift card numbers for another relatives birthday today. It came from HIS email so I thought nothing of it. Walked down to Walgreens bought 300.00 in gift cards. Scratched them off and sent the numbers off to him via email. 5 minutes later text from my wife saying uncles email was hacked. Should've known better, lesson learned.
August 22, 2019
Yesterday morning my husband got a call from those scammers saying that his SSN was involved in drug abuse in texas, if he didn’t cooperate with them they might issue arrest warrant against him. He got really scared and followed what they said, they asked him to use all his money to buy gift cards for them and at the end they would return him the cashiers check in the SSA office. My poor husband fell into the trap and lost 10,000$ to those scammers. Now we are left with no money. What should we do?
September 07, 2019
Some guy bought my controller for twenty, then asked for a 300 dollar steam card for their nephew, stopped responding when i said i couldnt give them the money. Even had a fake paypal email sent to me
September 12, 2019
I met a guy on Instagram and he works out on the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. We have been talking for months now and we switched from Instagram to Hangouts because he said it was easier to talk back and forth. Today he contacted me and asked for an Amazon gift card for $100. I purchased the gift card and took a picture of the back of the card like he told me. He then said he needed to receipt from the store I purchased it but I had thrown it away. He got angry and said he needed the receipt from store before he could use the card. I have a sick feeling in my stomach that it is a scam and that he is not who he says he is. Why would he need the receipt from the store in order to use the card?
September 13, 2019
This girl is located in Nigeria. She met me on this dating and marriage website. she ask and tell me to buy her $100 gift card so she can upgrade her ipad so she can download apps and much more. I think this is also a scam because you don't need gift cards to download apps on ipad. most apps are free on ipad and iPhone. I downloaded WhatsApp on my iPhone for free. if something similar come up to you like this, do not fall for it.
new Retiree
September 13, 2019
I have just gotten direct messages and then texted by a huge “star” who flirted for awhile after a just responded a quick tweet back to his comment. In a few days he asked for amazon and iTunes cards. He is really good and and sweet and says we will get together when the time is right. We have been talking for about a month, I sent one card and he wants more, I keep saying if you are so wealthy(1.5m) why in the world do you need this from me. The answers sound like bs, but he got me once and he is really really good, playing into my insecurities and using his own
September 18, 2019
Scammers have been calling me for 2 days as I have been trolling them like crazy, but they are very persistent so I keep talking to them we must gave spent 3 hours over the phone by now. I never say the word no and as I am about to give them money a " last minute unexpected problem" takes place all the close...yet so far. Lol. Will they give up ? I am not going to as I find this entertaining and I am keeping them busy from scamming someone else.
September 19, 2019
Thanks for sharing this information with us to protect us from scammers. Keep up the good work.
September 19, 2019
thay said thay were my cousin and of i wamted free monny to go by a 30 00 amzon card.i told them o couldnt do this becouse i was broke thay want me to get in contact with them threw texing them.i am not send them nothing
October 07, 2019
Game stop gift cards scam. But when you try to report it right away your on hold for 40 mins . Also , the phone # they contacted me with 3 times was a legit Apple phone #. As I checked using a land line during the scam . I’m still out $800 even after calling my bank , Apple and trying to call game stop right away.. very disappointing to someone trying to get by living off of a retirement check . in my opinion , if these low life scammers can find ways to scam using legitimate customer service numbers I find if very difficult to believe that these billion dollar companies can and will not find ways to at least protect consumers from scammers by protecting their own damn customer service telephone numbers or, is it still all about the bottom line. They still get paid and I can’t afford my medication this month etc . I really don’t think they care .
October 10, 2019
they got me on Monday for $3300. I received a call from a woman saying she was from the social security administration. The only reason i beleived was that almost two weeks prior to my credit and debit cards were stolen from work and my social security card was in there. I filed a police report that same day but nothing came of it, I called the 3 credit bureaus to make sure my credit hadn't been compromised and they all asked for account numbers I didn't have cause I had shut down my account to get new cards. so when the woman called and told me a vehicle was found at the Texas border with cocaine in it and was registered under my social security numer I believed her, cause I already feared it was compromised by the person who stole my cards. Long story short I purchased target and sams club gift cards and gave them the pin cause they said my funds had to be approved by the federal government and now I am screwed. I have contacted everyone I possibly could, it is an awful feeling. More definitely has to be done about these situations. It just can't be a "be more aware next time" cause where does that leave us? Some people might say I was stupid but when you have your credit and debit cards stolen and your social security card was amongst them, everyone here knows the power of SSN it can be used to ruin your life. So when you get told that happened, your first thought is "how do I fix this?" Be more understanding, it could happen to anyone.
October 16, 2019
I have had several people try to do this type of scam on me. It always starts out as someone who is interested in getting to know me to form a relationship. I am naturally very skeptical of anyone who wants money from me in any form. I always say things like "I bet you're going to ask for an iTunes gift card aren't you? I mean this is just silly why would you target me of all the billions of people on facebook? It just seems incredibly unlikely that you stumbled upon my profile and thought I'd be a great love interest." They usually back off after I call them out. If not I get the demands and name calling, once that happens I block them and report them to FTC. It is just that easy. Strangers do not need your money, strangers that are pretending to be family are really pathetic. If a "family member" calls you and asks for money, contact them personally or someone who knows them. Chances are it is not them, it is a scam. More or less DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSANCES give anyone a gift card that is not a gift for an occasion, and if you do give gift cards hand them the card in person.
October 18, 2019
my grandmother was just told by a friend, someone she trusts that if she purchases $800 in steam gift cards and mails them to this company that she will get $100,000, i'm afraid that she was just scammed. She did this without telling anyone in the family.
October 21, 2019
My elderly father-in-law has been and continues to be scammed for more than $30,000 over the past year and a half in a Nigerian romance scam. That's 300 Amazon $100-gift cards he has had to buy and he lives in a small town. He's still convinced he's sending money to try to help this "woman" get out of Lagos and continues to send gift cards even though everyone has told him it's a scam. I have contacted the local sheriff's office and was told they can't do anything about it. I have filed 2 complaints with the FTC and FBI but haven't heard from either of them. He texts pictures of the back of the cards and the receipts. He has every Amazon card and receipt he's sent to them. We've shown him all of the websites about these scammers. We even found the identify of the person's picture they stole from the internet and using as their profile picture. It was a porn star's picture. But we can't convince him that it's a scam. "She" told him she used to be a model and he believed her. He thinks this beautiful young woman is in love with him and trying to get here to marry him. "She" has made about 4 "attempts" to get here but, of course, there's always some obstacle out of her control that prevents "her" from getting here. He's shut almost everyone out of his life because he doesn't want to hear it anymore. It's totally frustrating. You can't report it to Amazon because the cards are not linked to an Amazon account. These companies should find a better system for gift cards or they should have a better way of reporting them as fraudulent and be able to stop them from being able to use them, like a stop payment on a check or something. They have to be aware their cards are being used for scams. I think if a law enforcement agency told him it was a scam, he might listen to them, but we haven't been able to get anyone's attention.
FTC Staff
November 12, 2019

In reply to by Poe

You may want to call the sheriff again and ask them to visit your father-in-law for a wellness check. You can say you think he's a victim of elder financial exploitation.

You can also find social service agencies near your father-in-law on the federal ElderCare Locator  - search by zip code. You can reach people who work on aging, financial abuse, and legal services. If you need other contacts, send a copy of this email to

October 30, 2019
Theres a woman going around posing as a marine rifleman on several dating apps demanding to link accounts wit hers and also asking for steam and itunes cards as payments as well will send money into your account and if you dont pay the money she sent you that scammer threatens you to have u arrested by fbi for fraud activity...
November 07, 2019
I was told I was approved for a loan through Lending Tree, emailed paperwork, texted back and forth, calls at the same time, got over 400 dollars put into my account, then to refund the FTCs money they wanted me ti go to Walgreen's and buy Amazon gift cards. I don't know what to do or who to call. I have changed the information I gave them for my account except the account numbers.
November 19, 2019
Another card that the scammers are asking for is One Vanilla. The scammer specifies which store to purchase the card from.
January 10, 2020
Do Nigerian banks use Amazon gift cards to open a bank account for a foreigner from the United States.? I was told by this person that this was the way it's done. This person supposedly is in West Africa on business. Kind of stuck in a hospital at the moment. He fell, hit his head on stairs to the point he has a tear on the brain and needs surgery or he will gradually lose memory. Sounds believable - yes? However he seems to have no problem in his memory to keep asking me for an Amazon card to release his funds at his bank in Africa. Sounds bizarre. Never heard of a bank anywhere insisting on this. Please help. Sorry for the long post.
November 27, 2019
I was almost scammed out $300.00 from a female that I met online, after three days of chatting through text messaging she finally got up enough nerve to ask me for help...the word "Honey and Baby" was used all throughout the texts over the three days. She staged the whole ordeal on the first day of texting by saying her birthday was in three days and on the third day she asked if I could help her, so that she could buy some gifts, but she insisted that I had buy three separate one hundred dollar Ebay gift cards from three different stores, once I told her that I was not gonna go to three different stores to buy three different Ebay gift cards she hung up the phone and blocked my. I felt that something was wrong and I almost bought the story, but I went on line to do some research on eBay gift card scams, and found many stories of fraud, so thanks!! So just wanted to report my encounter with gift card fraud.
December 03, 2019
I just got scammed out of $1400 by someone claiming to sell a SUV through EBay motors. I should have known better when the payment had to be in gift cards. She had pictures, address, etc and claimed she was military trying to sell it fast. It was my entire check. Then tried to ask for another $1,000 for insurance for shipment of the vehicle. I can't believe I was so dumb. This is the second time I've been got my scammers.
December 09, 2019
I’ve been getting calls about a federal grant, today I just went with the flow. I was told to buy a steam card at a local store, cvs, family dollar etc. To get 9200 at western union I need to buy the card and call them back. I don’t know where to report this scam. Name “Jenny” 315 620 3630 x 0050. I wish they could just stop calling.
December 14, 2019
In the mailbox yellow card for a 100 dollar gift card , when you call its foreign speaking lady then man who is very rude demanding money for shipping and activation of card!!!
December 14, 2019
a phone call to my wife convinced me to log on to my credit card account. I'm locked out of my account but there's a phone number posted on the bank's website with a message my account is frozen due suspicious activity. Called the number and -among other things- told to help catch criminals by purchasing gift cards.
December 16, 2019
It's obvious that this is a very low priority for government agencies, or else there would be far less scammers. When reported to the police and credit card agencies, their reaction is that there's nothing that can be done. Local police do not have the resources, and the relatively small amounts do not rise to the level which interests the FBI. This criminal behavior, and the government inaction, contributes greatly to the general distrust in this country.
December 18, 2019
I recently been scamed out of 2 20 dollar steam cards from a guy on instgram name is charles_lodge55 he said i won some money needed the steam cards to put the money in my account him and his so called boss they never deposited the money on the green dot card account i got for them and id like these people stopped if anyone reads this do not belive his scam