Government impostors demand gift cards in robocall schemes

Google Play, I-Tunes gift cards appear to be new payment of choice

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers of a new gift card scheme that has already cost victims more than $50 million in 2018.

Monica Vacca, the FTC associate director of consumer response and operations, told News 6 the impostors are pretending to be with federal and local government agencies like the IRS and Treasury Department.

According to Vacca, the thieves are demanding payment for bogus fines through Google Play and I-Tunes gift cards.

“What we’re seeing is a pretty dramatic increase in the percentage of people who are telling us they are paying scammers with gift cards,” Vacca said. “In just the first  three quarters of this year, victim losses have hit $53 million in gift cards.”

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Vacca said the agency has not been able to determine who is behind the gift card scheme, but it has found that the impostors will present variations of the story to convince their victims to buy gift cards and give them the number on the back so they get access to what acts as untraceable cash.

“It’s not just the IRS,” Vacca said. “It could be a government calling from a court telling them they need to pay money or maybe someone telling you you have won a prize.”

Vacca told News 6 the conmen direct consumers to go to specific locations, like Walgreens and CVS, to purchase the gift cards.

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The FTC website says it all: Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. Experts say anyone who tells you to pay with a gift card is a scammer. Report gift cards used in a scam to the companies that issued the gift cards.

If you receive a call from someone demanding payment that includes obtaining gift cards, report it to the FTC

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.