Warning over surging gift card fraud: Tesco is now putting up signs in store as scammers trick people into buying them – here’s how…
- Criminals scam people by telling them to buy gift cards and taking the code
- Rogue callers pretend the voucher is needed to pay a debt or tax
- Impersonation frauds are on the rise and cost victims millions every year
Criminals are tricking people into parting with their cash using a new scam involving gift cards.
Fraudsters, claiming to be legitimate employees of organisations such as the police, DVLA or HMRC, are phoning customers and telling them they need to buy gift cards to pay for non-existent fines and taxes.
Often the victim is threatened with arrest if they fail to purchase the gift card as requested. The ruse has now become big enough for Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco to put up warnings in-store in a bid to thwart it.
In some cases, scammers also claim to be a victim’s workplace telling them they need to buy a gift card as a present for a colleague.
Warning: Tesco is putting up signs where it sells gift cards in a bid to stop people falling for scammer tricks
Once a gift card is purchased, the scammer will then ask them to send the voucher code across and either transfer the money off the card immediately, or sell it on to other criminals.
In some instances the criminal may then ask their victim to buy more vouchers and send across those further details.
The fraud can also take place over longer periods of time, with criminals working to build up trust, often over the internet posing as a romantic interest before they ask for the gift card.
Gift cards are popular with criminals as they can be used to launder money, are less likely to be intercepted by crime agencies, and are difficult to trace compared to bank transfers.
People should be wary if they receive a request from someone asking them to buy a gift card or several gift cards to pay a fine, tax or a fee to win a prize, Finance UK warns.
Cases of impersonation scams – where the criminal gets money from their victim by pretending to be someone else – like the gift card trap, have risen dramatically in recent years.
In the first half of 2021 there were over 33,000 reported cases of impersonation scam, a 122 per cent rise – more than double the number from the year before.
Do you think you’re being scammed? Here’s what to do
• Stop: Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
• Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
If the caller claims to be from a known organisation and you are suspicious find a contact number on their official website and contact them to verify the call
• Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud
The rise of the gift card scam has prompted Tesco to team up with UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign in an effort to alert customers to the risk.
The campaign is placing warnings in the gift card sections of Tesco stores to help keep customers safe.
Sarah Sinden, of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, said: ‘Criminals are experts at impersonating people and organisations, and will go to great lengths to convince someone that they need your money in the form of a gift card.
‘The police, banks or other reputable organisations will never ask you to buy a gift card for them, so alarm bells should start ringing if you are asked to get one.
‘Follow the advice of the Take Five campaign: always stop and think before parting with your money in case it’s a scam.’
These type of scams are big money for fraudsters. In the first six months of 2021 a total of £129.4million was lost to impersonation frauds, a 123 per cent increase on the year before.
Ban Mahsoub, head of money services at Tesco Bank, said: ‘These scams have the potential to hurt our customers and we are committed to helping anyone who may be targeted and influenced by scammers.
‘Fortunately, people are increasingly wary of handing over banking information or transferring money to people they don’t know, but this means fraudsters are coming up with more elaborate ways to steal innocent victims’ money.
‘Gift cards don’t tend to be associated with scams, so it’s important customers are made aware of this type of fraud.’
Overall £2.35billion was lost to fraud crime in 2021, according to Action Fraud.