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Americans are forced to be ever vigilant these days to keep their money and personal information safe. Scammers are coming up with new schemes all the time to try and separate everyday citizens from their hard-earned money.
The newest thing to be aware of are scams involving the use of gift cards. Data from the Federal Trade Commission shows that in 2018, 26% of scammers asked for gift cards and “reload cards”, versus just 7% in 2015.
The latest “gift card” scam is a variation on the sweepstakes and secret shopper scam involving Reloadit -- a cash-in service that allows users to reload and manage money on prepaid debit and gift cards -- that can leave victims on the hook for more than $2,000.
Here’s how it works:
· The victim receives a letter from someone claiming to be from a legitimate mystery shopper company called Intouch Insight, as well as a check for $2,394.
· The instructions are for the victim to cash the check immediately or to deposit the check and get the money out within 24 hours, then to email or text confirmation. There is a bonus incentive for those that get the cash quickly (more on this later).
· The victim is told to keep $300 for themselves and use the rest of the money to purchase four Reloadit Plus Packs – loading $500 on each -- from area stores like Kroger, Food Lion, and Office Depot.
· After purchasing the Reloadit cards, the victim is to email answers to a series of questions, which includes the pin numbers on the Reloadit cards (10-digit number under the scratcher on the back of your Reloadit pack), to an individual.
· After the report is received, an address will be sent to the victim so they can mail out the Reloadit cards.
So here’s where things go bad. The check the victim is given and told to cash is fake. Because banks have to make funds from deposited checks available within days, uncovering a fake can take weeks. (That’s why there is an extra incentive to cash the check quickly.) By the time you try to get the money back from the Reloadit cards, the scammers are long gone, and they’ve taken all the money. Now you’re on the hook for the $2,000 dollars deposited onto the cards.
Intouch Insight is a reputable company and has been trying to warn those who receive the scam in the mail. Intouch does not send payment upfront.
Reloadit is also trying to warm victims ahead of time. They currently have a warning on their website:
“DO NOT PROVIDE THE PACK NUMBER FROM THE BACK OF THE RELOADIT PACK TO ANYONE OVER THE PHONE YOU DO NOT KNOW OR HAVE NOT MET IN PERSON. PROVIDING YOUR PACK NUMBER IS LIKE SENDING CASH AND CANNOT BE TRACED.”
For those that have been asked to provide Reloadit as a form of payment, you are asked to call 1-888-633-9434 before purchasing.
If you are ever asked to deposit or cash a check and then send money in any form, you can bet it’s a scam.
Keep track of the latest scams by signing up for free scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/Scams.
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