How Walmart Outsmarted Gift Card Scammers Targeting The Elderly

In a perfect world, everyone would be honest and no one would ever be tricked out of their money. Sadly, we don't live in a perfect world, and there are all too many people trying to make a quick buck by stealing from others. One way con artists have been doing this recently is through gift cards. These scammers usually contact their marks claiming to be someone they are not, such as a representative from the government, a business, or another important agency. Most often, they make the claim that their targets are behind in payments or owe money, which will result in penalties, fees, or severance of services unless they pay off their debt right away. However, rather than asking for cash, they direct their marks to purchase a gift card — for Target, CVS, or another store — and then share the card number and PIN, per the Federal Trade Commission.

These types of scams tend to disproportionately impact the elderly, who are often unaware of such swindles. Unfortunately, once these victims have purchased a gift card, their money is gone and difficult to recover. However, Walmart has been trying to change that.

Walmart froze almost $4 million of scammed gift cards

Recently, the superstore has set to work trying to save potential victims from Walmart gift card scammers. By implementing new technology, Walmart froze almost $4 million worth of gift cards, which had been purchased predominantly by elderly people who had fallen for the scam, reports CNBC. The funds were seized by the U.S. Department of Justice to be returned to the victims. Although gift card scams are far from over, Walmart's efforts will enable thousands of people to recover their money. 

Per CNBC, gift card scams are on the rise, with more than $148 million in stolen funds reported in 2021. To avoid being scammed, refer to the FTC's Consumer Advice page. The organization reminds people that "gift cards are for gifts, not for payments," and anyone demanding money through a gift card is almost surely a scammer. If you get a call that sounds like one of these scams, report it to the FTC or your state attorney general. And if you did pay a scammer, let law enforcement and the company you purchased the gift card from know. Similarly, avoid any sketchy announcements or inquiries related to gift cards. Last year, a Walmart gift card scam aimed to defraud customers with a fake reward offer.