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Pop Culture

Prefer to buy gift cards as Christmas presents? You should be aware of this holiday scam.

Every year, millions of Americans fall victim to gift card Grinches. Here's how to avoid being holiday hoodwinked.

gift card scam, gift card scam awareness, gift card fro christmas, discounted gift cards
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Watch out for gift card grinches this holiday season

Once upon a time, gift cards were seen as lazy, impersonal choices for Christmas presents. But nowadays, mindsets have shifted. In today’s more practically-focused, convenience-driven world, gift cards reign supreme. After all, when finances are tight, a free $20-$100 always offers the bonus gift of relief. It’s really no surprise that 29% of celebrators say they would actually prefer to receive gift cards or physical gifts according to Civic Science.


However, there are a few greedy Grinches out there ruining the gift card purchasing experience with multiple styles of scams. This kind of naughty behavior is so prevalent that since 2022, 73 million Americans have become unsuspecting targets

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Over on TikTok, just type in hashtags like #GiftCardScam and #GiftCardScamAwareness, and you’ll find countless people sharing their own horror stories of being duped over what should have been a stress-free purchase.

One particular method used by scammers, as explained in a PSA below, is stealing cards in bulk, carefully opening the card envelope without damaging it, cutting off the tops of the cards with the vital information on it, then carefully placing the cut up card back into the envelope and resealing it.

The perp then returns the envelopes back to the store, and once an unsuspecting shopper purchases the gift card, they drain it for all its worth.

@quantum.healer PSA | Gift Card Scam Alert Please take note of the gift card scam that is alarming and is increasing this holiday season. #psa #fyp #fypviral #christmas #holidayseason #giftcardscams #bediligent #educationalpurposes #hawaiitiktok #hawaiitiktokers ♬ original sound - Suzy Aledo

To avoid being bamboozled, shoppers are encouraged to feel for the entire card inside the envelope, or ask the store to remove the cards from their envelope at checkout.

Scammers can also might put a fake barcode on top of the card, or simply scratch off the barcode, after they’ve recorded it of course. That’s why it’s vital to check a gift card thoroughly before walking out of the store with it.

Of course, occasionally cashiers are the ones doing the gift card swaps, so it pays to keep a watchful eye.

More often than not though, gift card scams happen over the phone or online. A few examples below:

An imposter calls pretending to be from a well known company or government agency claiming you owe money, and—of course—that the only way to pay them is with gift cards.

This is just a huge NO. Even if whoever is on the other line can somehow whip up personal information (which they procured on the dark web) no actual company would only take payment in the form of gift cards.

@abc7newsbayarea Gift cards are only for gifting! Scammers love using gift cards to steal your money and will try to trick you into buying them. 7 On Your Side’s Scam School has another lesson on what to look out for. #giftcards #giftcardscams #imposter #scam #scam? #scams #scamcalls #fraud #7onyourside #scamschool #abc7scamschool #news #fyp #foryoupage #abc7news ♬ original sound - ABC7 News

“Charity” campaigns on social media seemingly raising fund fora good cause, and accepting gift cards as payment.

Aura.com suggests using sites like CharityNavigator.org ,The Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance andCharityWatch.org to check for any charity’s legitimacy. But if they’re asking for gift cards, it’s a dead giveaway they are not.

Fake websites for checking gift card balance.

This one is particularly sneaky, as almost everyone has the need to check their gift card’s remaining balance at some point. Your safest bet is to call the number on the back of your card to check the balance.

Fake profiles on dating sites that ask for gift cards as romantic gestures—a trip to see you, help with an emergency, etc. etc.

It’s a good general rule of thumb to never send any kid of money to a person you haven’t met. And to be aware of catfishing.

@sandyleenelson #duet with @Lori Fullbright #safetytip #fyp #foryoupage #scam #money #giftcardscams #London #Nigeria #notlove #dontfallforit #lie #liar #widow #onlinedating #Canada ♬ original sound - Lori Fullbright

An “accidental” refund that requires to to pay back in gift cards.

This happened to a woman in Wisconsin June 2022—she received an email from Amazon alerting her to a “fraud” on her account. When she called the phones number listed, the supposed Amazon rep “accidentally” refunded her $10,000 and told her she had to pay it back in gift cards. Sadly she didn’t realize it was a scam until she had lost $11,500.

If a rep “accidentally” sends you a refund, that’s a red flag. And if they suddenly need it to be paid back in gift cards, that red flag turns bright crimson.

One last tip regarding this, from Aura: Avoid installing remote access software, such as AnyDesk or TeamViewer, since these are the tools scammers use to manipulate your screen and make it look like they’ve refunded you too much money.

A random text from a family member in “urgent” need of help.

It’s best to trust your instincts here. If a message doesn’t quite sound like your loved one, it probably isn’t them. But rather someone who hacked their email or phone number.

Fake text messages from a boss or colleague in need of, you guessed it, “urgent” help.

Usually when this happens, the fake boss or colleague will ask that you send photo of the cards with the card number and PIN easily visible. But bottom line:no boss should be asking their employees to purchase gift cards. That’s just weird.

@ktsarna I tried my best… #fakeboss #scammers #scamtext #giftcardscams #boredathome ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys - Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

Getting a notification that you’ve won a sweepstakes that you never entered, and that you have to pay certain fees with gift cards.

In this case—the “winner” is the loser. Basically, you can’t win sweepstakes you haven’t even entered. So if you get a notification saying otherwise, someone is trying to hoodwink you.

Discounted gift cards being sold on platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

Look, it’s no surprise that these online selling sites are pretty much the Wild Wild West. And when you’re in a lawless territories with very little projections, a good rule of thumb to live by is : if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

In this scenario, a three-way call to an automated line will be initiated between you, the seller and the marchant to “prove” the balance is on the card. But as you type in the card number and PIN, the scammers are able to reverse engineer that information using the key tones. Crazy, right?

There are, however, legitimate discounted gift card selling sites like CardCash or ClipKard if you’re looking to save, without being scammed.

No one deserves to have their holiday season ruined by a Scrooge. Hopefully this information helps make your Christmas shopping a little safer.

True

Do you ever feel like you could be doing more when it comes to making a positive impact on your community? The messaging around giving back is louder than ever this time of year, and for good reason; It is the season of giving, after all.

If you’ve ever wondered who is responsible for bringing many of the giving-back initiatives to life, it’s probably not who you’d expect. The masterminds behind these types of campaigns are project managers.

Using their talents and skills, often proven by earning certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), project managers are driving real change and increasing the success rate on projects that truly improve our world.

To celebrate the work that project managers are doing behind the scenes to make a difference, we spoke with two people doing more than their part to make an impact.

In his current role as a Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified project manager and environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Joshua Williard oversees the cleanup of some of America’s most contaminated and hazardous waste sites.

Courtesy of Joshua Williard

“Recently, I was part of a four-person diving team sent to collect contaminated sediment samples from the bottom of a river in Southeastern Virginia. We wanted to ensure a containment wall was successfully blocking the release of waste into an adjacent river,” Williard says.

Through his work, Josh drives restoration efforts to completion so contaminated land can again be used beneficially, and so future generations will not be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

“I’ve been inspired by the natural world from a young age and always loved being outside. As I gained an understanding about Earth's trajectory, I realized that I wanted to be part of trying to save it and keep it for future generations.

“I learned the importance of using different management styles to address various project challenges. I saw the value in building meaningful relationships with key community members. I came to see that effective project management can make a real difference in getting things done and having on-the-ground impact,” Williard says.

In addition, Monica Chan’s career in project management has enabled her to work at the forefront of conservation efforts with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US). She most recently has been managing a climate change project, working with a diverse team including scientists, policy experts, data analysts, biologists, communicators, and more. The goal is to leverage grants to protect and restore mangroves, forests, and ecosystems, and drive demand in seaweed farming – all to harness nature's power to address the climate crisis.

Courtesy of Monica Chan

“As the project management lead for WWF-US, I am collaborating across the organization to build a project management framework that adapts to our diverse projects. Given that WWF's overarching objectives center on conserving nature and addressing imminent threats to the diversity of life on Earth, the stakes are exceptionally high in how we approach projects,” says Chan.

“Throughout my journey, I've discovered a deep passion for project management's ability to unite people for shared goals, contributing meaningfully to environmental conservation,” she says.

With skills learned from on-the-job experience and resources from PMI, project managers are the central point of connection for social impact campaigns, driving them forward and solving problems along the way. They are integral to bringing these projects to life, and they find support from their peers in PMI’s community.

PMI has a global network of more than 300 chapters and serves as a community for project managers – at every stage of their career. Members can share knowledge, celebrate impact, and learn together through resources, events, and other programs such as PMI’s Hours for Impact program, which encourages PMI members to volunteer their time to projects directly supporting the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“By tapping into PMI's extensive network and resources, I've expanded my project management knowledge and skills, gaining insights from seasoned professionals in diverse industries, including environmental management. Exposure to different perspectives has kept me informed about industry trends, best practices, and allowed me to tailor my approach to the unique challenges of the non-profit sector,” Chan says.

“Obtaining my PMP certification has been a game-changer, propelling not only my career growth, but also reshaping my approach to daily projects, both personally and professionally,” Chan says. Research from PMI shows that a career in project management means being part of an industry on the rise, as the global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030 and the median salary for project practitioners in the U.S. is $120K.

PMI’s mission is to help professionals build project management skills through online courses, networking, and other learning opportunities, help them prove their proficiency in project management through certifications, and champion the work that project professionals, like Joshua and Monica, do around the world.

For those interested in pursuing a career in project management to help make a difference, PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification could be the starting point to help get your foot in the door.

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