In a TikTok posted on Monday, Cathy Pedrayes warns that gift card scams are on the rise this holiday season. Pedrayes has built a following on TikTok by sharing safety, security, and cybersecurity tips and tricks.
“Scammers are grabbing gift cards, taking photos of the numbers, and replacing the security tape,” she said. “Or they put their own barcodes over the real one so that when you load money it goes to them.”
She recommends shoppers alert store employees if gift card packaging looks tampered with.
“It’s happened all over the country,” Pedrayes wrote in the video’s comments section. “But holidays are [definitely] peak for scams.”
In an email to the Daily Dot, Pedrayes said she “caught on to the gift card scam” after seeing multiple news reports about it. “Theres a variety of ways people get scammed with gift cards but what I found interesting about this version is that it’s not the traditional ‘pay the IRS with a gift card’ scam,” she told the Daily Dot.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “gift cards are far more frequently reported than any other payment method for fraud.” Between January and September of this year, 400,000 Americans lost a combined $148 million in gift card scams.
The more popular scams that the FTC describes in its December report are different than Pedrayes’s PSA, but the report acknowledges that scammers use a myriad of ways to take money using gift cards.
“Scammers favor gift cards because they are easy for people to find and buy, and they have fewer protections for buyers compared to some other payment options,” Emma Fletcher of the FTC says in the Commission’s report.
WJLA-TV reported on the scam tactic that Pedrayes described in the TikTok and suggested that shoppers buy gift cards from racks close to cash registers, easily visible to store employees at all times.
Commenters on Pedrayes’s video suggested that gift cards be placed in security cases that must be unlocked by employees either at check out or on shelves.
Another user said that they have been a victim of a gift card scam.
“Had this [happen] 6 years ago,” wrote @lovepets881. “Best to get an [e-gift card].”
This post has been updated to include a statement from Pedrayes.
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