Beware of Gift Card Fraud

As New Jersey steps up efforts to prevent gift card scams at the retail level, authorities have issued a consumer alert so residents aren’t next in a long list of victims.

Gift card fraud may have cost consumers up to $148 million in the first nine months of 2021, according to the Federal Trade Commission. During this period, the FTC received more than 39,000 reports of gift card fraud.

The program has become increasingly common in recent years, according to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs alert. Typically, a scam involves copycats contacting consumers and urgently demanding payment in the form of gift cards. These requests may come by phone, text or email, sometimes appearing to come from legitimate phone numbers.

According to officials, some scammers may ask for physical gift cards to be sent, while others may only ask for a card’s relevant information, so they can spend the funds without physically processing the card.

“Beware of any request for payment via gift cards – no legitimate business or government agency will ever request payment exclusively in the form of gift cards,” the alert reads.

The scammers have also been known to impersonate employers or family members, according to the alert.

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Along with the consumer alert, a set of guidelines is for retailers to train their employees on how to spot consumers at risk of gift card fraud. For example, cashiers may be right to be wary of someone buying multiple high value gift cards or immediately taking pictures of gift card serial numbers.

“The best tool we have to combat gift card fraudsters is widespread awareness of how they operate and how to stop them in their tracks,” Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin said.

The guidelines implement New Jersey’s Stop the Fraud Act, which was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy in January. The law requires retailers that sell gift cards to train their employees on how to identify and respond to fraud.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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