How to Detect a Gift Card Scam

Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union > News > How to Detect a Gift Card Scam

Phishing attacks, payment app fraud, identity theft, and new COVID-19 scams continue to impact innocent people in 2020. One scam locally has involved targeting email addresses found on church websites, then messaging pretending to be a pastor or priest asking for money.

This past weekend, a woman received an email that appeared to be from her reverend, but was actually from a scammer. The sender was asking for help purchasing various iTunes gift cards online, urgently. The email recipient purchased the cards, but luckily did not send the photo of the cards with access code to the sender. Instead, she contacted her financial institution and police to report the issue.

“We’re glad this person is able to use the gift cards she bought and that she isn’t out any money, but our goal is to help make sure no one else gets scammed,” said Carol Kulibert, Operations Manager at Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union in Marshfield, adding that an important component in fraud prevention is staying educated and informed on these different fraud attempts in order to more effectively prevent and detect scam attempts.

“Never give out any information over the phone, including social security number, address, credit or debit card number, bank account number, cell phone number,  email address, etc,” she said. “Also, do not let anyone access your computer remotely. Hang up on the caller or tell them you will contact the authorities to see if it is legit.”

She also advises never saying the word “yes” at any point during the conversation.

“By responding ‘yes,’ this notifies robo-callers that your number is an active telephone number that can be sold to other telemarketers for a higher price,” said Kulibert. “This then leads to more unwanted calls and opens up additional security risks.”

Essentially, once a scammer steals your phone number, they have access to gather even more previously secure information.

“With your phone number, a hacker can start hijacking your accounts one by one by having a password reset sent to your phone,” she said. “They can trick automated systems — like your bank — into thinking they’re you when you call customer service.”

Some scam signs to watch for include:

  • It seems too good to be true – for example, a holiday that’s much cheaper than you’d expect
  • Someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
  • You suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
  • You’ve been asked to transfer money quickly
  • You’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, by iTunes vouchers or through a transfer Service like MoneyGram or Western Union
  • You’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
  •  You haven’t had written confirmation of what’s been agreed
  • You’ve been asked not to share the request with others

Unfortunately, people do get scammed. The first thing to do after a suspected scam is contact your financial institution, then law enforcement.

“If you sent money or shared your banking details with a scammer, contact your financial institution immediately,” said Kulibert. “They may be able to stop the transaction, or close your account out if the scammer has your account details.  Your credit card provider may be able to perform a ‘charge back’ (reverse the transaction) if your credit card was billed fraudulently. And also report it to the authorities.”

Contact MMCCU at 715-387-8686 if you have any questions!

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