Your phone rings. It’s an unfamiliar number, but you answer anyway. The caller advises you of an urgent situation. In order to prevent “something bad” from happening, they demand payment immediately – in the form of one or several gift cards. They tell you which gift card to buy and may even direct you to a specific store to purchase it. The caller insists on staying on the phone with you during the transaction. Once you purchase the card, they request the gift card number and PIN to expedite the process.

Does this scenario sound familiar? It’s a textbook gift card scam.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) and our law enforcement partners have been inundated with gift card scam cases and need your help to prevent your friends, family, and neighbors from becoming a victim.

Aside from the method of payment, the stories behind gift card scams are not dissimilar to other common scams. The person on the other end of the phone pretends to be someone they’re not. They may identify themselves as a representative from the Internal Revenue Service, support technician from a computer company, customer service representative from your utility company, or even a friend or family member in trouble.

Gift cards are so popular with scammers because unlike other payment methods, there are far fewer protections for buyers and they are readily available in most stores. Like cash, once they have the gift card information in hand – the money is gone.

Remember the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:

  • No government agency or legitimate business will contact you and require payment with gift cards.
  • Gift cards are for gifts. When purchasing a gift card, only buy them from reputable stores and make sure it has not been tampered with.
  • Don’t answer phone calls from numbers that you don’t recognize. If it’s legitimate and it’s important they will leave a message.
  • If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be a family member or friend in trouble, try to contact them by traditional means to verify.

If you believe that you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam, contact the PCSO at 727-582-6200.

Posted by Verliz Williams Tuesday, February 1, 2022 12:39:00 PM

Non Emergency Line: (727) 582-6200 | In an Emergency call 911ADA info