Skip to main content

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

What’s one way to keep your money safe from scammers during the holidays? If you’re in the check-out line buying gift cards, make sure they’re for gifts. Only gifts. Not because someone tells you to buy gift cards and give them the numbers off the back of the card. Only scammers say that.

Gift card scams start with a call, text, email, or social media message. It’s usually for something urgent and they want you to pay right away. Scammers might say they’re from the government or a company you know. Or, thanks to AI voice cloning, they might even sound just like the friend or family member they call pretending to be, asking you to send money to fix their emergency. No matter what they say, it’s a trick to get you to go to a store, put money on a gift card, and give them the numbers. It’s a scam.

If you think you gave a gift card to a scammer, act fast. Grab your gift card and gift card receipt, then:

  • Report the gift card scam to the gift card company. It doesn’t matter how long ago the scam happened. Use this How To Contact Gift Card Companies list to report it.
  • Ask for your money back. Some companies are helping stop gift card scams. They might give your money back. It’s worth asking.
  • Tell the FTC at Your report makes a difference and helps protect people in your community from fraud and scams.

And what about those free gift card offers? Lots of scammers send phishing emails promising free gift cards in exchange for your personal or financial information. Save your money. Don’t click on any text or email links.

So: gift card for your 17-year-old niece who’s impossible to buy for? Sure. Gift card for the person who just called with an urgent reason to go get a card and share the PIN numbers? Heck no. Learn more at

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.

John coniglio
December 21, 2023

Need more explanation
What happens when they get the numbers???

FTC Staff
December 21, 2023

In reply to by John coniglio

If you give a scammer the card number and PIN from the back of a card, the scammer can use the money you loaded on the card, even if you still have the card itself.

George Hicks
December 21, 2023

I have not been scammed, but it's because of God & theFTC that I haven't 🙏 ❗


December 21, 2023

I needed to hear this!
My friend almost got scammed. I was unaware of the AI voice cloning.
That is down right scary. Can happen so quickly, if we feel a loved one is in trouble and we think we hear their voice.

December 21, 2023

Does this apply if you pay cash for the gift card?

Michael Lagana
December 21, 2023

Whats wrong with cash?

December 21, 2023

What about the gift cards to major stores and eateries that do NOT work once they have been "activated" at the point of sale, and then given to a relative for a special occasion? That has happened to me three times over the past year. I would get a gift card, have it activated at the register of the store where I purchased the card, then use it as a gift to a relative. The said relative would try to use the card for the face amount, "$25 or $50 or $100" and NOT be able to use it. A useless card had been sold to me!! How can we stop that form of fraud?

December 27, 2023

In reply to by Lovette

News now are showing how this new scam on legitimate card purchases are happening. scammers get the numbers from cards and when you activate it at register they are instantly alerted and they drain the money from the account before you have even given the card as a gift.

December 27, 2023

In reply to by Lovette

Most major stores print out an "activation status receipt" along with your receipt. I always tape that to my card so the recipient will know that ithas been activated and can check on the status themselves.

January 09, 2024

In reply to by Deb

My sister did exactly that and my $100 card had a $0 balance. Was used 3 days after she bought it at target at 3 am. Can’t even get a live person on the phone to report it. Gift giver out $100.

January 31, 2024

In reply to by LeeAnn

I'm currently facing the same issue with a $100 Macy's gift card that was purchased from Raley's. It was a wedding gift from my mother-in-law. When we tried to use the card at Macy's we were told there were no funds left. We called the phone number on the gift card and an automated message stated a purchase of $1.25 and then a purchase of $98.75 was made on the same day. We were in immediate contact with Macy's Gift Card Fraud, gave them all the requested information and now just getting the run around from Macy's. I filed a BBB complaint hoping to get some help.

Billy Williams
December 21, 2023

How about the celebrities who have multiple profiles/accounts on Facebook and Instagram asking for donations for whatever reason or charity? It's grown worse than ever in a very short time.

Gigi Keip
December 27, 2023

I am in contact with a man called Frank
Heinrich he apparently is a surgeon on Nato in Southern Africa he got 2 girls that live in the States he asked me to switch from messenger to Telegram does anybody had contact with him