Consumer Corner Column

Consumer Corner: Gift cards are new currency for scammers

Release Date: Oct 31, 2016

We recently warned you that the Federal Trade Commission has prohibited telemarketers from requesting that you wire money or give them a prepaid card number over the phone. So, that is an immediate giveaway that the person you’re talking to is a scammer. Unfortunately, the scammers are now getting around this new rule by asking for payment in another way – through gift cards.

Our office has received numerous reports over the past few months of consumers being asked by telephone or online scammers to pay for things using gift cards, primarily for iTunes, and often in very large amounts. While these gift cards can only be used at the store for which they are issued, the scammers can resell the gift cards online for cash, making it very difficult for law enforcement to trace it back to them.

The scammer may be using any number of popular scams, including posing as an IRS agent collecting a supposed past-due tax bill, or a grandchild in need of help. If they ask you to go to the store, buy an iTunes gift card and then read them the number, you’ll know it’s a scam. No legitimate government agency, bill collector or family member in need will ask you to send money that way.

Apple has also warned consumers to watch out for these calls, and never use an iTunes gift card to pay for anything, other than purchases through iTunes.

If you get one of these calls, hang up immediately. If you’ve been a victim of one of these scams, report it immediately to local law enforcement and our consumer protection division. You can contact us online at or by calling (800) 432-2310.