In some cases, victims are out thousands of dollars.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation published an alert Thursday warning of a worrisome trend: Thieves are using gift card exchange and auction websites to steal money from unsuspecting card buyers and sellers.
There are several traps that target people selling gift cards in particular, the FBI reports.
In one scam, fraudsters pay you for a card (or the code on the card), but then dispute or cancel the charge after they have already used the gift card. In another, they ask you to buy a bunch of gift cards in exchange for an item on an auction site—and then never actually send you the purchase.
To avoid becoming a victim, the FBI suggests you take several precautions when you use gift card websites.
- Check reviews of any website you use.
- Always review gift card balances before and after purchasing the card.
- If you are selling a gift card, don’t ever give out the card’s PIN until your payment transaction is complete.
- Be wary of auction sites selling gift cards at a discount or in bulk.
- If you are buying a gift card in a store, examine the protective scratch-off area on the back of the card for evidence of tampering.
And beware of social media postings offering vouchers or gift cards: Fraudulent messages can sometimes appear to have been shared by a friend when they really come from a scam artist.