Be Fraud Aware Because It’s Everywhere

AARP - Gift Card Scams

These days it seems no matter how hard you try you can never get away from scammers. Even when it comes to simple things – like buying a present for a loved one. A recent AARP survey showed some significant problems with America’s favorite gift – the gift card.

There are two types of gift card scams. In the first, a criminal convinces a consumer to pay a fake financial obligation buy 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.

Shockingly, the research finds that 73 million Americans have experienced one of these forms of gift card fraud.

Here are two other keys to understanding the true scope of consumer fraud.

First is understanding that we are all targets. If there is one thing everyone should understand, it’s that “scammers” are career criminals skilled at the art of manipulation and no one is immune. These crooks target people of any age; in fact, 41% of those who reported a fraud loss to the Federal Trade Commission last year were under the age of 30.

The other thing that we all need to understand is that identity theft was the top reported scam last year and most of it was driven from personal information that was already in the hands of criminals. While the best offense continues to be a good defense i.e. avoid clicking on links in text messages or emails, using unique passwords for each website you do business with etc, it’s also important to understand that we should be actively monitoring our credit because for many of us our personal information has already been captured through a data breech.

Lastly, it’s important to know where to turn if you’ve been victimized. One resource is the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline. Every weekday, trained AARP volunteer fraud fighters are helping victims understand what happened, report the crime and start to put their lives back together. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam or fraud, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 for support.

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

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all. Learn how to proactively spot scams or get guidance if you’ve been targeted. Visit or call our dedicated helpline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.

And make sure to tune into AARP Live on RFD-TV the third Thursday of every month for “Rural America Live – With AARP.”