Skip to main content

We’re seeing a new spin on gift card scams. This time, scammers are pretending to be a pastor, rabbi, priest, imam, or bishop. They’re asking worshipers for gift card contributions for a worthy cause. Appeals are often made by email, but we’ve heard people are also getting texts and phone calls, too.

The bogus emails often include the name of the local pastor and a legitimate looking email address. But a closer look should raise some red flags. For example, the email address isn’t the one normally used by the church, and the service provider is different, too. The message may begin with a simple “Hi,” but doesn’t include a recipients’ name. There also may be spelling errors, including the pastor’s name.

The imposter asks you to buy a popular gift card — frequently, iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon — and then asks for the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card. Those numbers let the scammer immediately get the money you loaded onto the card. And once that’s done, the scammer and your money are gone, usually without a trace.

If you or someone you know 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 at Your reports may help law enforcement agencies launch investigations that could stop imposters and other fraudsters in their tracks.

Report gift card scams


  • Call 1 (888) 280-4331
  • Learn 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 Apple Support at 1 (800) 275-2273, then say “gift card” 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.

July 29, 2019
Our newly hired church secretary received one of these that seemed to be from our Pastor. She was a bit suspicious, plus she wasn't sure how to do what was asked. Eventually, she and Pastor contacted me as the "IT guy" for our small church. We figured out this guy was sending an email from a South Korean account, and this whole thing was total scam. Too many misspellings, and weird punctuation usage. She stopped responding, and the guy went away. Yes, this real - be very skeptical if you get one of these.
July 29, 2019
Although this is a new one for me, what about those who ask that you make them part of your will or donate your stocks and bonds?
July 29, 2019
How low can they go, anyway.?
Just a thought
July 29, 2019
If it's some entity posing as "clergy" asking you to "give" to a cause, how are you supposed to know all of the information they provide in an email, phone call or text is real or not? Usually, they're not posing as , say, your "home" parish or assembly...they're asking from an unknown-to-you "institution" because yours will ask you to your face.
July 29, 2019
Scammers gonna scam!
zubair bukhari
July 29, 2019
hi how can i and whom to i talk about my one problem of stole my money.
August 01, 2019
Hello, yes I had the same case with iTunes cards a couple of months ago and again and again which people come with the same questions to get the card with different excuses. It is horrible to work on what types of fraudsters
August 14, 2020
Wow this literally happened to me I believed it until my husband had to tell me he had thought it was a scam
August 02, 2019
I was notified saying they were a pastor I know and they wanted me to put in for a grant that she was chair person on group giving. I did not give my SSAN but did give other info. I contacted the Pastor to explain. She was not aware of any grant. Individual said his name was Agent Williams Charles. Phone text # 208-503-1706
August 02, 2019
Simple rule. Never make ANY kind of donation with a gift card of any kind. Use a check or credit card. The best way to donate to your local religious community is in the Sunday collection plate. They'll appreciate a nice sized check!
August 04, 2019
How about them asking for the Google Play to get money for you and just keep on keeping on asking you to send money for everything under the sun and now they want $550. for an attorney fee to get 4 million dollars?????
November 22, 2019

In reply to by skootsmom

Don't give anyone any money online or by gift card unless you already have a face-to-face relationship. What you describe here is a SCAM. Stop responding and don't give them anything else.
Don't use your…
August 12, 2019
So, how are the scammers supposedly accessing worshippers’ email addresses? Through the pastor’s email account? This article does not address prevention or how to stop it once it starts; it only addresses reporting once you’ve fallen for it.
Melanie Smith
October 21, 2019

In reply to by Don't use your…

Our church uses people management software. I was concerned that the software company's data had been breached - how else would they get our congregants' contact info? The knowledgeable folks there explained that the "bad guys" use something called Open-source intelligence (OSINT) - data collected from publicly available sources to be used in an intelligence context. By looking at information we share online, they can deduce who belongs to a church community. It was eye opening to me.
they think the…
March 26, 2020

In reply to by Don't use your…

usually its a fake email most people don't even look at the email address, we get texts too I just act like they have the wrong number. and I even was sitting with my Pastor when I got one one time and I answered back that it was funny that i was with him as getting this text. they won't quit they will go away for a while and come back with a different number.
Don't use your…
August 14, 2019
My wife received a phone call from an old friend (who is also a pastor) who had her convinced she would get any amount she chose either by check of UPS delivery next day of money. She had to go and buy gift cards to offset their costs made out to them. I was skeptical and check into it and discovered the scam (she was heading out the door ). convinced that the next day UPS would deliver her money in cash! TRUE - If it sounds too good to be true its a scam!! Bob
Jeff L
August 15, 2019
This happened to some of our congregants and staff members right after we called our new minister. We put a warning in the next bulletin and weekly newsletter. If it looks suspicious, put your cursor over the sender's name and the true name of the sender will appear. It probably won't be the minister's name!
September 27, 2019
Yes i got scammed but it was Greendot Moneypak tjat scammed me. I purchased a Moneypak for $500.00 on july 2,2019. Couldnt load money toy card sl i requested a refund on line as Greendot instructed. Never received my refund all i got was sorry ypur mpney got paid out this was the response afrer i filed a complaont with BBB. Couldnt see how it got paid out . Funfs never got loaded anywhere and only Greendot & myself new my pin. Greendot took my money & cause great hardship on my children & me. And are doing this to so many people & getting away with it.
October 25, 2019
I had this happen to me this summer. The email was supposed to come from the pastor where I work while she was on a mission trip. So the story seemed true and I personally bought the itune cards and sent the information. Now out the money. I will definately submit the information even though it happened in June.
Happened To Us Too
December 13, 2019
This just happened to us today. A brand new email address created at Google that pretends to be our pastor with his name and photo. Asked me for $500 of gift cards...scratch off the pin area and send a photo. Crazy!
Don't use your…
August 19, 2020
This gift card scam began with a call allegedly from Amazon about a suspect purchase attempted with my Amazon acct. It first led to attempting to get my bank account data on a refund form. When I hung up, I googled Amazon' phone to report suspicion. The person assured me that the charge was pending and tried to get me two buy gift cards as electronic keys to shut down the various devices' access to the Amazon account and get my refund.
Pastor Laura
January 05, 2021
This is happening more and more! One idea is to encourage all pastors to advise members that "The Pastor and staff of the church will never email or text you asking for money, gift cards or any financial help in an emergency. Such "urgent" requests are scams and should be deleted. The only appeals the church makes are for the regular offerings of the church, given through our regular donation methods." Some pastors have even found it valuable to append this type of reminder to their auto-signature of the emails.
February 09, 2021
I was contacted via text message.
March 11, 2021
Just happened to me. Came as text request. Wish I had read this info first. Had the nerve to contact me again the next day. That’s when I realized it was a scam.
Jagros NZ
July 14, 2021
This happened to one of our members recently - an older lady who responded and lost $700 in the process. Started with an email from the senior pastor -"Can you please help me with an urgent problem? I'm in a meeting so don't call, just reply to this email if you can help and I'll get back to you." Then came the sob story about helping a family member overseas who needed urgent medical care but couldn't get access to money because of COVID lockdown. Requested to buy STEAM cards, which she did.
September 03, 2021
Two days ago I received a text from our Paster asking me to contact him, said he had a favor to ask. I replied and he texted me saying he was in a meeting all day and couldn't get away and wondered I would be able to get some Apple Pay cards for a few women in the hospital suffering from cancer. I am so grateful I asked my son where to buy the cards and he and my husband both heard of this scam. I called the Pastor and of course, it was not him that texted me. Gosh, the lengths they will go.