Payment by gift card—it’s a scam!

Gift cards are nice, but as a form of payment—think twice

Gift cards are a convenient way to purchase goods and services, but can also be gifts not worth giving if you provide them under duress. Buying gift cards as a gift is commonplace, but it is rare for honest people to request them as a form of payment. If you’re being asked to provide a gift card on an emergency basis, it’s probably a scam. Here’s how the swindle often happens:

THEY MAKE CONTACT—Scammers may contact you by phone, email, text, or social media and pose as a government representative about taxes or a fine; a utility company threatens to cut your service; someone alerts you to a contest you won; tech support reaches you about a problem with your computer; a relative contacts you with an emergency, and so on.

THEY DEMAND PAYMENT—These dishonest individuals will demand immediate payment sent to them in the form of gift cards to prevent unwanted consequences, such as withholding a tax refund, discontinuing services, and help with curtailing a personal emergency.

THEY CREATE URGENCY—They’ll be extremely convincing and might even use voice cloning to sound like someone you know, hoping that you won’t think twice about acting immediately.

THEY REQUEST SPECIFICS—They’ll guide you to specific retailers or request specific gift cards. Once you’ve purchased the gift cards, the scammers will ask for the card number and PIN on the back of the card to drain the value from the card.

What can you do if you think you’re being scammed?

  • Don’t feel guilty about saying no
  • If you’re on the phone with an individual you supposedly know, hang up and call them back directly
  • Don’t give them gift card information verbally or by sending a photo

What can you do if you’ve already been scammed?

  • Don’t beat yourself up about it. Report the gift card scam to the gift card company right away, no matter how much time has elapsed. You can even try asking for your money back
  • Report the incident to the FTC at


If you have questions about fraud or SCU’s fraud monitoring service, call us toll-free at (888) 599-2265.