The Federal Trade Commission says it is seeing a new spin on gift card scams — preying on victims’ religious affiliations by posing as pastors, rabbis, priests, imams, or bishops.
The FTC says the scammers ask worshipers for gift card contributions for a worthy cause. Appeals are often made by email, but people are also getting texts and phone calls, too.
The bogus emails often include the name of the local pastor and a legitimate looking email address. But a closer look should raise some red flags, according to the FTC. For example, the email address isn’t the one normally used by the church, and the service provider is different, too. The message may begin with a simple “Hi,” but doesn’t include a recipients’ name. There also may be spelling errors, including the pastor’s name.
The FTC claims the imposter asks the victim to buy a popular gift card — frequently, iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon — and then asks for the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card. Those numbers let the scammer immediately get the money loaded onto the card.
And once that’s done, the scammer and the victim’s money are gone, usually without a trace, according to the FTC.
If you or someone you know paid a scammer with a gift card, report it as soon as possible. Call the card company and tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Here is contact information for some of the gift card companies that scammers use most often. Then, tell the FTC about it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports may help law enforcement agencies launch investigations that could stop imposters and other fraudsters in their tracks.
Report gift card scams
- Call 1 (888) 280-4331
- Learn about Amazon gift card scams here.
- Call Apple Support at 1 (800) 275-2273, then say “gift card” to be connected to a live representative.
- Learn about iTunes gift card scams and how to report them here.
- Call 1 (866) 795-7969
- Report a MoneyPak card scam online here.