Asked to pay a bill with a gift card? Don’t.

If you’ve been asked to pay for something with a gift card, please note this is a scam.

The Federal Trade Commission has received many reports of people saying they’ve been asked to pay for an item with a gift card. The scenario generally involves callers claiming to be from a Tech Support company, the IRS, a so-called family member or a friend-of-a-friend.  The caller demands the gift card numbers and PIN.

These scammers are very good at convincing people there really is an emergency, so lots of people have made the trip to the Walmart, Target, CVS to buy gift cards or they use their iTunes card. These cards are like giving cash – and nearly untraceable. Since gift card sales are now a year-round business and with the growth of online shopping, gift card scams are on the rise.

Remember that gift cards are for gifts, not payments. If you’ve lost money to someone who might be a scammer, tell the company who issued the card. Let them know their card was used in a scam. If you act quickly enough, they might be able to get your money back. But – either way – it’s important that they know what happened to you.

Also, if you are a victim of any scam, contact the FTC at their complaint assistant website. The FTC notes that complaints from consumers help them detect patterns of fraud and abuse.

About Cheryl McCollum

Cheryl McCollum is an Associate Manager of Public Relations at TDS Telecom. She has 25 years of media experience. She’s worked as a newspaper reporter in Northfield, Minn., and Beaver Dam, Wi. She worked in media relations and advocacy for the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Bankers Association. She also worked in communications and advocacy for Habitat for Humanity of Dane County. She has a Journalism and Political Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She’s married, has two adult children and enjoys traveling, especially to U.S. state capitols.

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