10 Amazon Gift Card Scams You Need To Avoid

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Yaniv Masjedi

Organic Growth at Aura

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    Are Amazon Gift Cards Safe To Use? 

    When a Pennsylvania woman got an email from a friend asking for help buying a $300 Amazon gift card for her niece’s birthday, the woman didn’t suspect foul play [*]. It was only when they saw each other in person days later that she found out the friend’s email had been hacked — and the whole thing was a scam. 

    According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), gift cards represent the fourth most common payment method used by scammers in 2021 [*]. Scammers love gift cards because they’re simple to buy, yet almost impossible to trace or dispute once you realize you’ve been scammed.

    Gift cards were the fourth most-used payment type by scammers in 2021 - FTC
    Source: FTC 2021 Sentinel Report

    When it comes to gift card scams, few companies are targeted as much as Amazon. 

    In this guide, we’ll explain how Amazon gift card scams work, the warning signs to watch out for, the latest scams you need to be aware of, and what to do if you’ve been scammed. 

    What Are Amazon Gift Card Scams? How Do They Work?

    Gift card scams can range from imposter scams requesting payment in gift cards to fake gift card giveaways that steal your personal information. 

    Scammers target gift cards from any major brand — Target, Apple, Microsoft, Walmart, Google, etc. But Amazon’s popularity and huge online catalog make Amazon scams especially appealing to con artists.

    Here’s how one of the more common Amazon gift card scams works:

    • First, scammers reach out to you via email, text message, or phone call pretending to be someone whom you trust — such as law enforcement, the IRS, or your utility company. 
    • Then, they create a sense of urgency, claiming that you owe money and will be fined — or face jail time — if you don’t comply. 
    • Next, they say you need to pay them in Amazon gift cards, and instruct you to buy them in-store or online — and then share the gift card numbers and PINs on the back. 
    • Finally, they quickly use the funds on the card before you realize what’s happened. Once the money on a gift card is spent, it’s gone. 

    This is just one example of a common Amazon gift card scam. Criminals use several other methods to get you to send them gift cards, including:

    • Refund scams. Fraudsters send text messages or emails claiming that you were refunded too much money on a recent purchase, and you need to repay the company using Amazon gift cards.
    • Fake prizes. You receive fake emails claiming you’ve won a prize and need to pay a “processing fee” with gift cards. 
    • Hacked accounts. Scammers send impersonating messages from hacked accounts that ask for gift cards (like the email the Pennsylvania woman got from her friend in the story above)
    Take action: If you get conned by a gift card scammer, your bank account and identity could be at risk. Try Aura’s top-rated identity theft protection free for 14 days to secure yourself from scammers.

    7 Warning Signs of an Amazon Gift Card Scam

    Gift card scams can be devastating, but have one major weakness: they’re among the easiest scams to spot. If anyone, anywhere, for any reason, asks you to pay for something with a gift card, you know it’s a scam.

    In addition to this warning sign, you should also look out for: 

    • Calls or messages that say you need to act immediately, or give other reasons for urgency.
    • Threats of fines, jail time, deportation, or cancellation of government benefits.
    • A caller who won’t let you hang up or talk to anyone about what’s going on.
    • Anyone who asks you for the card number and PIN on the back of an Amazon gift card.
    • You see signs of a phishing email such as poor spelling and grammar or a suspicious sender email address. 
    • Websites with notifications about winning a prize, or urgent warnings that your computer has been infected with a virus.

    💡 Related: How To Tell if Someone Is Scamming You Online

    Always remember: If you have to pay with gift cards, it’s a scam!

    No matter how official someone sounds or how realistic and urgent the situation appears, the moment anyone asks you to purchase gift cards, you can safely hang up the phone or delete the email. Gift card requests guarantee a scam.

    No government agency or legitimate business — including Amazon — will demand payment in gift cards.

    10 Awful Amazon Gift Card Scams To Avoid

    1. Overpayment scams asking for refunds via gift cards
    2. A “friend in need” urgently needs you to buy gift cards for them
    3. Emails or texts claiming that your Amazon account has been hacked
    4. “Free” Amazon gift card emails
    5. Buyers or sellers demanding gift cards on online marketplaces
    6. Your boss asks you to buy Amazon gift cards via text 
    7. Fake job offers (especially “secret shopper” jobs)
    8. Romance scammers asking for gift cards
    9. Imposter calls from government agencies
    10. Surveys or forms that offer Amazon gift cards as prizes

    Amazon gift cards can be used for numerous scams. If you recognize any of these warning signs, you’re dealing with a fraudster.

    1. Overpayment scams asking for refunds via gift cards

    In this scam, fraudsters pretend to send you money, but “accidentally” overpay you — often by thousands of dollars. Then, they demand that you send them the “extra” money back in the form of gift cards. 

    But the whole thing is a scam. Either you’ve received a fraudulent check that will bounce in a few days or scammers have gained remote access to your computer and digitally altered the amount in your bank account.

    In one case, a woman in Madison, Wisconsin lost $11,500 to scammers who pretended to overpay her for a $400 Amazon reimbursement [*].

    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • Anyone who claims they’ve “accidentally” overpaid you is scamming you.
    • Changes in payment methods, like asking you to repay a credit card or bank charge with gift cards or cryptocurrency.
    • Demands for you to personally return the money. Legitimate companies will issue a chargeback to your bank or credit card.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Be wary of anyone who “accidentally” overpays you, and never pay them back, especially not in gift cards. Tell them to issue an official chargeback instead.

    2. A “friend in need” urgently needs you to buy a gift card for them

    If hackers take over an email or social media account, they’ll reach out to the account’s contacts and ask for help in the form of gift cards. Oftentimes, they’ll claim they’re having issues with their bank and need you to buy a gift card for a family member or friend’s birthday — for which they will supposedly pay you back. 

    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • Emails or social media messages from someone you know asking for gift cards or money, especially if it’s from a person with whom you don’t speak often.
    • A sense of urgency in the messages, especially any messages claiming your acquaintance is in trouble.
    • Vague stories that omit personal details.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Asking for gift cards is a warning sign that someone is trying to scam you. If you think a message could be legitimate, contact the sender on another platform. For example, if you get an email that a family member is in trouble, call them to verify the email is authentic.

    💡 Related: How To Know if Your Email Is Hacked

    3. Emails or texts claiming that your Amazon account has been hacked

    You get an email, text, or call saying that there’s been an unauthorized purchase on your Amazon account. Common versions of this scam include emails “confirming” Amazon Prime shipments or phone calls claiming to be from Amazon’s fraud department.

    When a North Carolina woman responded to one of these emails, scammers told her that hackers had infiltrated her Amazon account, pension, and savings — and told her to pay in gift cards to remedy the situation [*].

    Amazon is the most popular company that scammers impersonate, representing one in three reported scams.

    Amazon was the most impersonated brand according to the FTC
    Source: Federal Trade Commission
    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • Emails, texts, or calls about suspicious payments. If Amazon suspects fraud, it will put the order on hold first, then contact you.
    • Anyone who demands money or gift cards to “fix” a fraudulent transaction.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    If you get a message or call that your Amazon account has been hacked, verify it by logging in to your Amazon account. Do this:

    • Make sure you’re signing into your account on “Amazon.com.”
    • Review your recent transactions.
    • Review your gift card history.
    • Sign out any devices that may be logged in by clicking on “Account & Lists,” then “Login & Security,” then “Secure Your Account,” and then  “Sign-out everything.”

    4. “Free” Amazon gift card emails

    This trending scam works by tempting users with a free Amazon gift card. But if you click on the link, it will download malware on your computer. The malware can steal your passwords and bank account information and help the scammers commit identity theft.

    Example of an Amazon gift card phishing email. Source: Bleeping Computer
    Example of an Amazon gift card phishing email. Source: Bleeping Computer
    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • You get notified about winning a prize or award that you never entered to win.
    • Offers of free money, gift cards, products, or anything else that seems too good to be true.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    If you visit a website that claims you’ve won a prize, immediately click away from the site. Delete or ignore any suspicious emails, text messages, calls, or voicemails about prizes you’ve won unless you remember entering to win.

    💡Related: 10 Text Message Scams You Didn’t Know About (Until Now)

    5. Buyers or sellers demanding gift cards on online marketplaces

    Online marketplaces like OfferUp,Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace can be great places to buy and sell, but they’re also favorite hangouts for criminals.

    Scammers post great-looking items for sale at too-good-to-be-true prices, demand upfront payment in gift cards, then disappear.

    Other times, they run overpayment scams posing as out-of-town buyers. They’ll send a phony check with an inflated amount to “cover the costs,” then request you pay the difference in gift cards.

    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • Any buyer or seller on an online marketplace who requests payment or reimbursement in the form of gift cards.
    • Products listed far below the going market rate.
    • Buyers who offer to pay more than the asking price.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    When buying on an online marketplace, beware of any offers that seem too good to be true. When selling, avoid buyers with suspicious stories or unusual payment methods.

    💡 Related: How To Avoid Common Craigslist Scams → 

    6. Your boss asks you to buy Amazon gift cards via text

    In this impersonation scam, a fraudster pretends to be your boss or other work colleague and sends a message (usually a text) with an urgent request for you to buy gift cards.

    Example of a scam text claiming to be from your boss. Source: Reddit
    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • A boss or work colleague messaging you at a personal number or email address.
    • Odd spelling, grammar, or phrasing that’s different from the person’s usual communication style.
    • An out-of-the-blue, urgent, high-stakes request that you’ve never gotten before, especially anything that involves spending money.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Almost any work message asking you to buy gift cards is a scam. If you’re unsure, verify it by contacting the person another way, like with a phone call.

    7. Fake job offers (especially “secret shopper” jobs)

    You apply for a promising position at a well-known company and after a short video or text interview, you’re given the job. Then the recruiter asks you to pay a “preferred vendor” in gift cards for equipment, training, or certifications.

    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • Employment positions that seem too good to be true.
    • Jobs that conduct text interviews over Telegram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or other platforms instead of in person or on a live call.
    • Recruiters who use Gmail addresses or don’t appear on a company’s LinkedIn or official directory.
    • Any job that requires you to spend any money to get the position, even if the supposed employer sends a check beforehand.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Stay cautious during your job search and keep an eye out for red flags like text interviews or high wages for entry-level positions. Never take a job that requires you to spend money, even if the alleged employer or recruiter sends a check first.

    💡 Related: How To Identify Job Scams [24 Warning Signs]

    8. Romance scammers

    In this elaborate social engineering scam, fraudsters build online relationships and then ask for money in the form of gift cards.

    Romance scammers frequently pose as attractive, well-off foreign entrepreneurs or military members serving overseas — always with an excuse explaining why they can’t meet in person or have a video call. After weeks or even months, they’ll ask for gift cards to pay for an emergency. But there is no emergency — and no relationship.

    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • Urgent requests for money or gift cards from someone you’ve never met in person.
    • Constant excuses for why you can’t meet them in person or talk to them on a video call.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Be extra cautious dating someone you’ve never met in person, especially if they initiated the relationship. Never lend money to someone whom you only know online.

    💡 Related: The Unexpected Dangers of Online Dating [11 Scams To Know!]

    9. Imposter calls from government agencies

    In this type of scam, you get a call from an agency like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Social Security Administration (SSA), or Medicare. The caller claims you owe fines or unpaid taxes, or that you’ve been linked to serious crimes and need to pay for an investigation.

    They demand that you pay in gift cards immediately, and might threaten arrest, deportation, or cancellation of government benefits.

    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • Any government agency that requests payment in gift cards, money orders, or cryptocurrency.
    • Calls, texts, or social media messages from government agencies. If legitimate, they’ll almost always send a letter first.
    • Threats of arrest, deportation, or “canceling” your Social Security card.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Virtually all calls claiming to be from government agencies are scams. Don’t pick up calls from unknown numbers, and never return a voicemail that reflects any of the warning signs above.

    💡 Related: How To Identify a Medicare Scam Call

    10. Surveys or forms that offer Amazon gift cards as prizes

    Scammers promise free gift cards, but they use phishing scams that collect personal information to commit identity theft. After answering questions that expose your identity, you’ll discover there is no gift card reward.

    Example of a pop-up survey claiming to offer an Amazon gift card. Source: 2-Spyware
    Warning signs of this Amazon gift card scam
    • Offers that seem too good to be true, especially for simple tasks like taking a survey or answering questions.
    • Any form or survey that asks for sensitive information, like your passwords, Social Security number (SSN), bank account numbers, or credit card information.
    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    While some legitimate surveys do pay with Amazon gift cards, the earnings are usually just a few dollars. Stay away from any offer that seems too good to be true, and never share detailed personal information in a survey.

    Were You The Victim of a Gift Card Scam? Do This!

    If you’ve been the victim of a scam involving Amazon gift cards, follow the steps below and then report the fraud. The sooner you act, the more likely you will be able to resolve the problem and get your money back.

    If you’ve given scammers an Amazon gift card or code

    • Report the fraud to the credit card issuer or bank that you used to pay for the gift cards. They will request a refund from Amazon on your behalf, as long as the card balance hasn’t been spent.
    • You can also contact Amazon at their support center or by calling 1 (888) 280-4331.
    • Save all receipts, bill statements, and the physical gift card.

    If you’ve given scammers financial information

    • Report the fraud to the impacted financial institution, like your bank or credit card issuer. If there are fraudulent transactions, request that they remove the charges.
    • Save all documentation, like bank statements or letters from your credit card company.
    • Look out for common signs of identity theft and take steps if your identity has been stolen.
    Take action: If scammers have your financial information, they could drain your bank account or take out loans in your name. Try Aura’s top-rated identity theft protection service with credit monitoring to warn you in near real-time if scammers are targeting your finances.

    If scammers have access to your Amazon account

    • Log into your Amazon account, click on “Account & Lists” > “Login & Security” > “Secure Your Account.” Follow the steps provided, including changing your password, setting up two-factor authentication (2FA), and signing out of other devices.
    • If you can’t sign into your Amazon account, click “Forgot password.” You’ll need to enter your email address and follow the recovery instructions there.

    How to report the scam

    • File a fraud report — even if you didn’t lose money — to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and to your state Attorney General.
    • If you’ve lost money due to identity theft, like someone accessing your Amazon account or making unauthorized purchases with your card, file a report at IdentityTheft.gov.
    • If you did lose money, report it to local law enforcement. The documentation can help prove your case with Amazon and with your bank.

    Can You Get Your Money Back From an Amazon Gift Card Scam?

    If you’ve given a scammer the codes from the back of an Amazon gift card, it’s very unlikely you’ll get your money back.

    You should immediately call the bank or credit card company that you used to buy the cards and report the fraud. If the scammer still has not used the money on the cards, Amazon can issue a refund and return the money to your account.

    However, to prevent this from happening, today’s scammers usually spend everything within a few minutes of getting the gift card codes.

    How To Protect Yourself From Amazon Gift Card Scams

    The single best way to protect yourself is to remember that anyone who requests payment in the form of gift cards is a scammer.

    Follow these tips to stay safe:

    • Only use gift cards as gifts. Anyone who asks you to pay for something with a card is a scammer.
    • Assume any email from Amazon is a phishing email. Don’t click on links or download attachments. Instead, confirm by visiting Amazon.com directly.
    • Never share gift card codes. Giving someone the code off the back of a gift card is like handing them cash.
    • Beware of texts, emails, and calls about suspicious orders. Amazon won’t process orders flagged as fraudulent — and won’t warn you about orders considered legitimate.

    The Bottom Line: Don’t Give Scammers the Gift of Free Money

    Scammers love Amazon gift cards because once they have the codes, the money is theirs to keep. But you don’t have to be vulnerable to their tactics.

    Watch out for the warning signs of an Amazon gift card scam. And for added security, consider signing up for Aura’s all-in-one identity theft protection solution. 

    Aura monitors your personal information and financial accounts for signs of fraud, safeguards your devices and network from hackers, provides 24/7 support with dedicated fraud resolution specialists, and covers every adult member on your Aura plan with $1 million in insurance for eligible losses due to identity theft. 

    Shut down scammers now: Try Aura free for 14 days

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers