The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has released a consumer alert due to the rise of gift card scams in New Jersey.
Attorney General Platkin recently announced that the Division of Consumer Affairs has issued a consumer alert on gift card scams along with guidelines for retailers to train their employees on signs that a consumer is falling victim to this common form of fraud.
Gift card fraud has become increasingly common in recent years. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), gift cards were the most commonly reported method of payment in fraud schemes from 2018 to September 2021.
“The best tool we have to fight gift card scammers is widespread awareness of how they operate and how to stop them in their tracks,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin.
The Stop the Fraud Bill, signed into law by Governor Murphy in January, requires New Jersey retailers that display and sell gift cards to train employees on how to identify and respond to gift card fraud. Employees must receive training by August 1, 2022, or within 45 days of beginning employment, whichever is later.
The purpose of this training is to ensure that employees know how to recognize signs that someone may be the victim of gift card fraud, such as buying multiple gift cards with higher dollar values or immediately taking pictures of purchased gift cards’ serial numbers.
According to the guidelines, employees should be trained to use the “if you see something, say something” approach, and if they suspect fraud ask the customer why they are making the gift card purchase(s).
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), from January 2021 through September 2021, there were over 39,000 reports of gift card fraud that cost consumers as much as $148 million.
Common gift card fraud schemes include:
- Government Agency Scams – someone claiming to be from a government agency demands payment in the form of gift cards to avoid arrest, receive assistance, or pay a fine to stop your social security number from being frozen.
- Utility Scams – utility company imposters claiming service will be cut off if payment is not received right away.
- Refund Scams – A caller offers a refund, credits money in excess of the refund, and asks to receive the additional money in gift cards
- Employer Scams – A scammer pretends to be your boss and sends you a text or email asking you to pick up gift cards for a work event. They ask you to take pictures of the backs of the gift cards, promising to reimburse you later.
- Grandparent Scam – someone pretending to call on behalf of a relative or friend in distress and asking for money to assist them.
- Romance Scam – Someone you met on a dating website or app needs your help and asks you to send gift cards.
- Freebies and Sweepstakes Scams – A gift card is required to pay a processing fee to receive a prize of free merchandise.
If you believe you have been a victim of a gift card scam or suspect gift card fraud you can file an online complaint with the Division by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.