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Common Gift Card Frauds & Scams

Tips to help avoid gift card fraud

  • Target GiftCards can only be used at Target stores and on Target.com, and cannot be used to purchase other prepaid or specialty gift cards. No legitimate government entity, including the IRS, Treasury Department, FBI or local police department, will accept any form of gift cards as payment.
  • Other businesses do not accept payments in the form of Target GiftCards. For example, you will never be asked to pay your utility bills, bail money, debt collection and hospital bills with Target GiftCards.
  • Do not purchase, sell, or check your balance on online marketplaces outside of Target.com.
  • If you get a call from a stranger who says that a loved one is in trouble and they ask you to provide gift card numbers to help them, hang up and contact your loved one directly.
  • Don’t always trust your caller ID. Scammers can manipulate a caller ID to look like a legitimate company or government agency.
  • Don’t purchase a gift card if it appears that the packaging has been altered or manipulated. If you have questions about a gift card, ask someone who works at that store.
  • Don’t click on or respond to online ads or websites offering free gift cards. These are often scams.
  • If you think you’ve been the victim of a gift card scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

Common gift card scams

The IRS Scam Scammers call and claim that they are the IRS or other government agency (i.e. FBI, Law Enforcement, etc.) and that the victim owes that agency money. Sometimes the scammers say that the victim will lose their house or be arrested if they don’t pay immediately. The scammers then instruct the victims to purchase gift cards and give the gift card numbers to the scammer over the phone.

The Grandparent Scam In this scam, the scammer will call a victim and indicate that a loved one is in some sort of trouble (i.e. kidnapped, arrested, etc.). Sometimes, the scammer even pretends to be the loved one and asks directly for money. The scammer then instructs the victim to purchase gift cards and give the gift card numbers to the scammer over the phone.

The Mystery Shopper This is a scheme where scammers send a check and letter to victims and inform them that they can make money as a “mystery shopper” for a retail store. They try to get victims to deposit the fake check, create a cashier’s check and buy items at the store. The fake check bounces after the guest has sent gift cards and merchandise to the scammer. The scammer may also use this tactic to attempt to get personal information from the victim.

Additional resources

Avoid being the victim of a scam

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) https://www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-things-you-can-do-avoid-fraud

The National Council on Aging Top 10 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors: https://www.ncoa.org/economic-security/money-management/scams-security/top-10-scams-targeting-seniors/

Fraud.Org A Project of the National Consumer League: http://www.fraud.org/home

Reporting suspicious behavior

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

  • Contact the FTC, which handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit https://ftccomplaintassistant.gov/, call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to: Federal Trade Commission, CRC-240, Washington, D.C. 20580.
  • For updates on other types of potential scams, check out the FTC’s “scam alert” website at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts

*See offer details. Restrictions apply. Pricing, promotions and availability may vary by location and at Target.com.