The Oregon FBI is celebrating this week! Today marks 100 episodes in the Tech Tuesday series of stories about how you can build a digital defense and stay safe online.
But just because we hit a big milestone, we do NOT want you to go out and buy us a gift card.
Cards are definitely convenient and easy, and they do make great gifts to grads or dads on father’s day. But, when someone demands a gift card as payment for anything, that is a sure sign that you have likely stumbled into a scam.
In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3.gov) sees gift card usage as a prime component of many of the most popular online frauds.
Think you won the lottery that you maybe don’t even remember entering, and the company asks for you to pay some handling fee with a gift card? It’s a scam.
Is someone threatening to turn off your cable or water because you have a late bill, but they will keep you going if you just pay some back fees with a gift card? It’s a scam.
Have an online Romeo who just needs a little help before he can finally come to meet you? He asks for boost via gift card, and you know you have a scam.
In fact, there are 1,001 scams out there, and most of them can end with a request for payment by gift card.
According to our friends at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the most popular requests by fraudsters are for iTunes, Google Play or Amazon gift cards. The bad guy will often direct you to one or more local stores such as Target, Walmart or Walgreens to buy the cards. Sometimes he will stay on the phone with you or in touch by text or social media to make sure you go through with the purchase. Once done, he will immediately ask for the card number and PIN. The scammer can drain the card almost instantaneously, leaving you with nothing but an empty wallet.
If you do realize quickly that you are a victim, try contacting the card issuer to see if there’s anything it can do. But, remember — a gift card is like cash. Once it is gone, it is almost impossible to recover it.
As we wrap up #100, a thanks to you for following our Tech Tuesday series, and be sure to check our website at Portland.fbi.gov for our previous episodes.
And, as always, if you have been a victim of a gift card scam or any other cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.