Gift Card Scam - FTC Issues Warning About Scammers Impersonating Pastors to Ask for Money

Scammers are now targeting worshipers in a gift card scam.

Scammers are becoming smarter, which means you need to stay aware so you’re one step ahead if confronted with a scam. The latest trick to squeeze money out of unsuspecting victims is the "Can you do me a favor?" scam.

The scammers target the religious population by pretending to be a rabbi, pastor, imam, bishop or priest. The scam is similar to one in which the scammer pretends to be your boss or maybe even the principal of your school.

Amy Nofziger, AARP fraud expert, has explained the scam. She said it usually starts with an email appearing to be from someone you directly associate with, like a pastor. The email will include the name of the local pastor, and the email address will look legitimate. However, looking a bit closer should show you a couple of holes. If you look closely, you’ll notice the email address won’t be the one used by the church. In fact, even the service provider will be different. The messages are all different but usually start with a “Hi,” without the recipient’s name. The emails usually also have spelling errors, including but not limited to the pastor’s name.

The scammer will then ask you to buy a popular gift card and will cite several legitimate-looking reasons. The most common gift cards asked for are iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. After you buy the gift cards, the scammer will ask you for the gift card number as well as the PIN from the back of the card.

As soon as you give the scammers these numbers, they’ll be able to access the money on the card. Once they do so, they’ll disappear, and you’ll be left with an empty gift card. The scam isn’t limited to email. Scammers have been known to text people and even call them on their phones.

The requests will appear sincere and might start off like “Jane, could you please email me back? I need a favor.” People must keep their guard up so they don’t fall victim to these scams.

The FTC has warned people to report a stolen gift card as quickly as possible. The quicker the card is reported stolen, the easier it is for the concerned authorities to catch the crooks.

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