Gift card scams are simple, sneaky and growing in popularity — and still largely under the radar.
About 25% of U.S. adults are not aware that gift cards are used as a form of payment and scams, and about 10% have been the victim of those scams, according to an AARP survey.
According to AARP, people of all ages have fallen victim to gift card scams, but older people are particularly vulnerable.
“The problem is that when you're an older adult and you are targeted and lose money to a scam, you are likely to lose a heck of a lot more money than a younger person because of sensibly,” said Kathy Stokes, the director of fraud prevention programs at AARP. “You have more money, right?”
Gift card payment scams have been on the rise since 2018, and the average scheme nets a loss of about $800 to the victim.
Typically, fraudsters reach victims over the phone. They’ll claim the victim has won a prize, or owes some sort of bill or cash sum. The scammers will then ask for payment using an “electronic voucher” and tell the victim to go buy a gift card.
AARP plans to focus on gift card scam prevention over the next three years, including testing out interventions with retailers who sell the gift cards to victims.
“It's a little bit hard to understand, because you can't you can't imagine why somebody would believe that buying a gift card could solve a problem, but the scammer gets you into a heightened emotional state of fear or even love or excitement,” Stokes said.
The AARP has a section on its website dedicated to gift card scams. They also have a hotline where anyone can report fraud at 877-908-3360.
“We just want to make it really obvious to people that anytime somebody asks you to make a payment with a gift card that it's a scam,” Stokes said.