It has become a common scam in recent years: Someone calls an unsuspecting victim to instill panic and pressure them into buying gift cards.
The fraudster might pretend to be with the IRS, threatening that the victim will be arrested if he or she doesn’t pay up by purchasing a gift card. Or they might pose as an attorney for a family member. Or as an online love interest who needs help in paying a debt in the form of a gift card. These scams are constantly evolving. But once the victim puts money on a gift card and shares the 16-digit code on the back with the fraudster, the money is gone, and it’s nearly impossible to get back.
While these scams often have involved iTunes gift cards, we have begun seeing instances where some fraudsters are now requesting payment in the form of gift cards from various retailers, including Best Buy gift cards. Because of that, we want to make sure you’re aware of these scams and know how to avoid becoming a victim.
If you ever receive a call demanding payment via Best Buy gift card, do not buy the gift cards. Instead, call your local police department and report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission.
Remember, Best Buy gift cards can only be used to buy products or services from Best Buy. If someone asks you to use a gift card as a way to send them money, it’s likely a scam.
Never provide the numbers on the back of a gift card to someone you don’t know. Doing so is like giving them cash, and it’s sure to disappear quickly. (Criminals typically spend the balance on the card or sell the codes on the black market for cash immediately after receiving your numbers.)
Meanwhile, at Best Buy, we’re enhancing our training for our store employees to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. Best Buy already has limits on the amounts and numbers of Best Buy gift cards that can be purchased. And if a customer is purchasing a large number of gift cards, we may ask additional questions.
These steps already are paying off. Recently, employees at a store in Redding, California, helped protect an area grandmother from one of these scams.
“She walked into the store and said she needed four $1,000 gift cards,” said Marysa English, a Blue Shirt at the store. “I went over to talk to her, and she told me her granddaughter called to say she was in jail and needed the gift cards.”
Marysa explained that it was a scam, because gift cards wouldn’t help the woman’s granddaughter if she really were in trouble.
“I told her we saw a similar incident about two weeks ago,” Marysa said. “That’s when it clicked for her. I advised her to call police, which she did.”