HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — AARP says con artists have latched on to gift cards as an easy way to scam people out of money.

Gift cards are readily available almost everywhere you shop and criminals can drain the money from the cards almost instantly.

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AARP says scammers will call and use different scenarios trying to get you to use a gift card as a payment.

For example:

  • a call from Social Security warning of a problem with your account.
  • a call from the utility company warning you owe money and your utilities will be shut off if you don’t pay now.
  • a call claiming a family member is facing a financial emergency.
  • a call claiming you’ve won big in a lottery and you only need to pay a processing fee to get your money.

AARP says if someone tries to convince you that you owe a debt or other obligation and that the quickest way to pay is by purchasing gift card and giving them the numbers on the back of the card it is a scam.

Hang up and report the situation to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report could help to identify trends and build cases against criminals.

If you’ve lost money to this scam, contact your local police department and file a report. In the slim chance the scammer is caught, the record of the report may help you get your money back.