Gift card scammers strike again

Police asking businesses to help head off scammers; talk to customers, post signs

BROOKINGS – A victim is out $2,000 after a scammer convinced her she had an outstanding Amazon debt, according to Brookings Police.

Lt. Marci Gebers asked businesses to look out for their customers, talk to them if they are buying numerous high dollar gift cards at a time, and visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at and print off signs to help alert victims they might be getting scammed.

The scam was reported at 3:44 p.m. Monday, April 26, Gebers said.

“The victim in this gift card fraud ended up sending $2,000 worth of gift card numbers. It was four $500 Target gift cards,” Gebers said.

The fraud was perpetrated via text message, she said.

“The fraudster stated that there was an outstanding bill that the victim needed to pay. They claimed to be from Amazon’s fraud department and that she had to purchase $2,000 worth of gift cards to pay off her outstanding debt,” Gebers said.

“She provided the information to the fraudster with a total loss of $2,000,” Gebers said

Gift cards are for gifts

Gebers said people should remember this rule: Gift cards are for gifts. If someone is insisting you pay them through a gift card immediately, chances are very high it’s a scam.

Gebers said there are ways to verify if you have an outstanding debt with a company. First, no company will ask you to pay a legitimate debt in gift cards. Gift cards are untraceable, and you have no way to prove you’ve paid. That’s why scammers insist on gift cards. 

“I would utilize the internet and find their legit website and contact information and contact them that way” to see if you owe them money, Gebers said.

“If someone gives a gift card number out and they realize that they’ve likely fallen victim to a gift card scam like this, oftentimes on the gift cards, there’s a contact number and they can call that number and see if the money has been taken off of that card yet,” Gebers said, then the gift card company can stop the money from being taken off of the card.

“But usually what we find is that as soon as that card number is given, the criminals are taking the money off of the card right away. They know to move quickly,” Gebers said, making it nearly impossible for the victim to get their money back.

Help others

Gebers said scammers get results because they use scare tactics. 

“Oftentimes, they play on people’s emotion and they get people upset, and people are scared and flustered,” Gebers said. 

In that state of mind, folks don’t think clearly and may need a little help to see it’s a scam.

Gebers credited some businesses for already being on the lookout for victims and talking to customers about gift card scams. 

“Businesses are aware,” she said.

She’d like more businesses to be aware of the danger and help the public and law enforcement.

“Local businesses can help us by making sure that their employees know what to watch for with these gift card scams,” Gebers said, especially if people are purchasing multiple cards in high dollar amounts.

“They can always communicate with that customer about gift card scams and try to prevent somebody from falling victim to this scam,” Gebers said.

One of her detectives had noticed the Federal Trade Commission had different options for signs that the public can print and put up in businesses to warn their customers. Gebers suggested putting them up by the gift cards or registers.

“If they see that, that might just be enough to make them think twice and stop them from falling victim to that,” she said. “I think it would be awesome if businesses could do that.”

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]