WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Better Business Bureau warns that gift card scams are up 50% over last year.

In these scams, someone will be contacted by phone or email and urged to purchase a gift card of some type, then provide the card’s info to the scammer. The BBB Scam Tracker shows scams involving gift cards increased significantly first three quarters of 2023 compared to the same period last year.

There are multiple variations of the scam. A common one seen in Kansas is a caller claiming to be a law enforcement representative like a deputy or police officer, calling, telling the potential victim they have an outstanding warrant that needs to be paid immediately or they will go to jail.

They then try to convince their victim to purchase a gift card to pay the fine immediately. No legitimate law enforcement agency will ever contact you this way and ask you to pay a fine in that manner.

A new variation of this scam involves the scammer posing as an Amazon employee, telling the victim there is fraud on their account. They will then convince the victim to participate in a “sting operation” involving them purchasing gift cards and even connecting them with a fake law enforcement or government agent to complete the transaction.

Some involve scammers using Google ads that show up in searches for legitimate businesses. They will then call the number listed in the ad and be connected directly to the scammer, who will convince them to pay for goods or services they will never receive by purchasing gift cards and sharing the card information.

Some scammers contact by text message or send convincing emails that use logos and even links that appear to go to legitimate websites. Other scammers turn to places like Facebook, pretending to be selling furniture, cars, pets, and renting property.

The Better Business Bureau has some basic tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Be wary of anyone asking for payment with a gift card, including “government” agencies. No legitimate government organization will ask you to pay with a gift card. 
  • If you suspect a scam, contact the gift card seller, the actual business or government organization supposedly asking for money, and BBB to ask if you are dealing with a scammer. To find contact information, go directly to the organization’s website rather than search for their customer service number, which can be spoofed by scammers. 
  • Keep all information related to your purchase if you are scammed because some retailers may require that information for refunds. 
  • If you suspect fraud, act immediately, contact the gift card seller or the number on the back of the card to report it.  

If you think you spot a scam, you’re encouraged to report it to the Federal Trade Commission and the BBB Scam Tracker. You can find tips from the Better Business Bureau on avoiding scams by clicking here.

The Federal Trade Commission also offers tips for avoiding scams on their website.