The problem with gift cards

Published 1:33 pm Friday, May 13, 2022

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It’s not always risk-free with America’s favorite gift.

There are two types of gift card scams. In the first, a criminal convinces a consumer to pay a fake financial obligation by purchasing gift cards and sharing the numbers off the back of the cards. In the second, scammers have already accessed the cards while on the store racks, leading a consumer to purchase or receive a card with zero funds. Shockingly, the research finds that 73 million Americans have experienced one of these forms of gift card fraud.

In other words, one-third of U.S. adults say they have been targeted by scams seeking payment by gift card, according to a report by the AARP Fraud Watch Network. And nearly a quarter of consumers have given or received gift cards that had no funds on them.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumer reported scams led to losses of $233 million in 2021 to scams involving gift cards as the form of payment. Remember, gift cards are for gifts – not payment. If anyone you don’t know asks you to pay them with a pre-paid card, it is a scam.

Be a fraud fighter. If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Report scams to local law enforcement. For help from AARP, call 1-877-908-3360 or visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at

To learn more about AARP Virginia, like the Facebook page at aarpvirginia and follow @AARPVa on Twitter at