Protect Yourself This Holiday Giving Season

By: Jenny Grounds, Cybercrime Support Network

Giving Tuesday 2021

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement that takes place on November 30. It was created in 2012 to encourage people to contribute to their community. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

It is in our nature to be kind and give to others, especially during the holiday season. However, it is important to remember that there are people that will prey on this kindness to take advantage. With scammers growing more sophisticated in their tactics, it is critical to slow it down, spot check and don’t send money unless you are able to verify the caller and the legitimacy of the request.

Gift Card Scams

Scammers pretend to be someone they’re not and tell you there is an urgent matter that must be taken care of immediately. They want to scare or pressure you into acting quickly, so you don’t have time to think or talk to someone you trust. The solution they offer is payment via gift cards. When you hear this, slow it down, spot check and don’t send anything. Gift cards are not for payments, this is a scam.

Here’s a list of common gift card scams and schemes:

  • The caller says they’re from the government — maybe the local police or Sheriff’s Department, the IRS, FBI, or the Social Security Administration. They say you did something wrong and have to pay taxes or a fine or you will be arrested or have something else happen to you. It’s a scam. 
  • Someone calls from tech support, usually saying they are from a major company you’ve heard of and there’s something wrong with your computer. Or you’re browsing the Internet and get a pop-up that says something is wrong and to call a tech support company immediately. It’s a scam. 
  • You meet someone special on a dating website, but then they need money for an emergency and ask you to help them. It’s a scam. 
  • The scammer pretends to be a friend or family member in an emergency because they are sick, injured, or in trouble and asks you to send money right away — but not tell anyone. It’s a scam. 
  • Someone says you’ve won a prize but first, you have to pay taxes on the winnings, fees, or other charges, sometimes with a gift card. It’s a scam. 
  • The caller says they are from your power company, or another utility company and threatens to cut off your service if you don’t pay the outstanding balance immediately via gift cards. But utility companies don’t work that way. It’s a scam.
  • You get a check from someone for more than you expected. They tell you to deposit the check, then give them the difference on a gift card. It’s a trick, that check won’t clear and you’ll be out the money. 

Protect Yourself

When you receive a call like this, follow these steps to protect yourself.

Stay Scam-Free

1. Slow it down 

  • Is this call, text, email, or DM expected? If not, it might be a scam.
  • When online, does the pop-up telling you something is wrong with your computer look like something you’ve seen before? If you run an Internet search on the phone number, does the number correspond to the same company via the company’s official website? If not, it might be a scam.
  • Is it an emergency where you have to act immediately or something terrible will happen? If so, it might be a scam.

2. Spot check 

  • The caller gives a reason for providing gift cards that sounds unusual - e.g. 
    • Your credit card was stolen and the only way to prevent someone from spending all your money is to spend up to the limit first. You should buy gift cards. It’s a scam. 
    • You broke the law or failed to show up for jury duty and must pay the fine/damages right now, via gift cards, or be arrested. It’s a scam. 
    • You won money but need to pay the taxes or fees first, via gift card, before they can send it to you. It’s a scam. 
    • Your child/grandchild is injured and in the hospital and you need to pay via gift cards to get them treatment. It’s a scam. 
    • Your child/grandchild was arrested and you need to pay via gift cards to get them an attorney. It’s a scam. 
  • The caller tells you to lie if anyone questions why you are purchasing gift cards. It’s a scam. 
  • The caller wants you to purchase gift cards from multiple stores. It’s a scam. 
  • The caller says you must tell them the gift card number and pin number immediately. It’s a scam. 

3. Don't send 

  • If someone asks for a gift card to solve a problem, it’s a scam. 


How to Report a Gift Card Scam 

If you paid a scammer with gift cards, contact your local law enforcement right away. Not only can law enforcement possibly help you, reporting the crime means helping warn your neighbors.

Additional reporting to the issuer of the gift card, via the phone number on the back of the card, your state Attorney General's Office, and/or the company whose name was used can be helpful.

Next, contact the Federal Trade Commission at Even if you did not pay the scammer, notifying the FTC helps stop these scams from affecting others.

If you want to learn the three golden rules to spot a scam, visit the CSN and Google partnership site, More information about cybercrime, tips on immediate action steps if you’ve encountered a scam and resources to recover can be found on Follow CSN on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube . For more insight, subscribe to our newsletter, where we provide updates about everything going on within CSN.

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. The NICB is supported by more than 1,200 property-casualty insurers, self-insureds, rental car, vehicle finance, and auto auctions. To learn more, visit