Gift Card Scams: A Goldmine for Criminals

Have you ever given or received a gift card only to find no value in it? Or, have you or someone you know paid something – an overdue bill, an initial fee for collecting lottery winnings, for example – by loading money onto a card- gift and then sharing the numbers on the back of the card? If so, you are not alone. This AARP survey found that 73 million American adults have been victims of one of these forms of gift card fraud.

Main conclusions

  • Just over a third (34%) of American adults say they or someone they know has been the target of scams to pay a financial obligation with a gift card.
  • Of those who were targeted by this gift card payment scam, a quarter (24%) followed up by purchasing gift cards in response to the demand.
  • A quarter (23%) of consumers in the United States have given or received gift cards with no funds.
  • About one in four adults (24%) who have been contacted to buy gift cards to pay a fake debt, bill or fee said they bought the cards for that reason – that’s about 13 million American adults aged 18 and over.
  • More than half (54%) of respondents who tried to obtain a credit or refund for the missing balance were unable to do so.
  • The majority (89%) of all consumers agree – 61% of them saying they strongly agree – that lawmakers need to do more to protect consumers from fraud and scams.


AARP commissioned AmeriSpeak Omnibus to conduct this survey of n=2,179 adults ages 18 and older. The survey was conducted January 27-31 and February 18-22, 2022. Data is weighted against national census benchmarks and balanced by gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, region.

Suggested quote:

Sauer, Jennifer. Survey of US consumers on gift card scams. Washington, DC: AARP Research, April 2022.

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