Protecting Seniors

Gift Cards: A Popular Way for Scammers to Steal Money

March 10, 2021

Gift Cards: A Popular Way for Scammers to Steal Money | Aspiriant Wealth Management

Imagine this: you visit an Apple Store, and the next day you get a call asking you to buy $100 gift cards for all of your friends and loved ones. Sometimes they ask for your credit card information. Or, they urgently ask for the gift card barcodes and redemption codes once you’ve loaded the gift cards.

This type of scam is increasing in popularity. It’s essential to understand that if anyone is asking you to buy fake gift cards or pay a debt with a gift card, it’s most likely a scam.

Beware of Making Payments with Gift Cards

Here’s another scam making the rounds. It involves paying bills via a gift card. It doesn’t matter what bill the scammer claims needs to be paid. If they ask you to pay it using a gift card, recognize that as a huge red flag. Report it immediately. They may say they are from a utility company or the IRS, and you have back taxes that can be settled with gift cards. Do not believe them.

Here are other things that may tip you off that you are communicating with a scammer:

  • Sense of Urgency: Often, the caller will stay on the line with you as they tell you to get to a CVS or Walmart right away to purchase a certain amount in gift cards. They list consequences like late fees, bill collectors, or tax penalties. Each threat comes with an urgent timeline.
  • Demand for the Card Information: The moment you complete your gift card purchase, they will ask for the card barcode and pin. Once that information has been passed on, your money will be gone. They do not need the physical card-in-hand to access the funds.
  • Ask You to Pay for Secondhand Purchases with Gift Cards: If you are trying to buy a large item from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace or any other secondhand selling site, do not pay with gift cards. Once again, the moment they receive the gift card, your money is gone, and you will never receive your product in return.
  • Convince You to Buy Gift Cards Over the Phone as Gifts: Someone might call and tell you that they will send gift cards to your family and friends for you. All they need is your credit card information to pay for the gift cards. The gift cards are fake, and this is a red flag.

Unfortunately, there are predators out there who are intent on making you confused and flustered. Be vigilant. Also, spread the word on gift cards and related scams so you can better protect your loved ones.

Paul Hynes
Paul Hynes

Director in Wealth Management, Partner

Paul joined Aspiriant in 2021 via a merger with HearthStone Private Wealth Management, the San Diego firm he co-founded with business partner, Wendy Wildey. Paul serves as a Director in Wealth Management and Aspiriant partner. Paul also directs the fiduciary investment services team at Aspiriant. He brings more than 35 years of experience in the financial services industry.

Prior to joining the firm, Paul served 11 years as president and CEO of HearthStone. Before that, he spent 22 years with a large Wall Street brokerage firm. During that time, the firm changed its name 13 times and is currently known as Morgan Stanley.

Paul earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Virginia. He earned the right to use the Certified Financial PlannerTM Professional designation in 2012. Paul founded Senior Safe & Sound, a non-profit educational resource and video library that seeks to educate and empower senior citizens and those they love to prevent elder fraud and abuse. He serves on the Investment Advisory Board of United Way of San Diego, as well as several other non-profit boards and committees.

Paul and his wife of over 40 years, Joanie, are empty nesters after raising two incredible and wonderful humans, Chris and Lauren. Together they enjoy sports of all kinds — currently golf, tennis and pickleball are favorites. They also enjoy travel, wine tasting and reading.

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