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.”
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.