News Staff Report
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has issued an alert to religious leaders around the country about a gift card scam that targets the benevolence of churchgoers and worshipers.
The FTC alert explains that scammers pretending to be a pastor, rabbi, priest, imam, or bishop ask worshipers for gift card contributions for a worthy cause. Such appeals are most often made by email, but the scammers also use texts and phone calls to solicit the bogus donations.
The person making the scam call reportedly asks an individual or group to buy a popular gift card — iTunes, Google Play and Amazon are some of the most frequently requested — then asks for the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card.
Once the scammers have that information, they immediately cash in the cards and take the money people loaded onto them and are gone, usually without a trace.
The emails often include the name of a local pastor and a legitimate looking email address. But a closer look should raise some red flags, such as the email address not being the one normally used by the church. The message may begin with a simple “Hi,” but doesn’t include a recipient’s name. There also may be spelling errors, including the pastor’s name, the FTC reported.
There are steps people should take if they believe they have paid a scammer with a gift card.
First, the transaction needs to be reported as soon as possible. Call the card company and tell them the gift card was used in a scam. (Be prepared to give the company the information from the card.) After the scam has been reported to the card issuer, individuals should report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
To report scams involving the most common type of gift cards, call Amazon (888) 280-4331; Google Play (855) 466-4438; iTunes: (Call Apple Support at 800-275-2273, then say “gift card” to be connected to a live representative; Steam (those with a Steam account can report gift card scams online.); MoneyPak (866) 795-7969.
Consumers can also sign up for free alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/subscribe.