By Mike Deem
Have you thought about giving a fancy new gadget as a holiday gift? Or maybe there’s something on your wish list that Santa forgot to bring? If so, you might be tempted by an Ad to purchase high-tech gadgets for a low price. But if a merchant, other than Amazon.com, asks you to pay using an Amazon gift card then it’s probably a scam. In fact, Amazon’s gift card terms don’t allow you to use Amazon gift cards to make payments anywhere besides amazon.com and a few specific sites.
Here’s how the scam happens: You discover a website that sells new HDTVs, GPS devices, and other tech-gadgets for deeply discounted prices. You haven’t heard of the site, but you’re diligent and you do some research. You find a few reviews from satisfied customers, you think the site is legitimate, and you go for it.
During checkout, you’re instructed to purchase an Amazon gift card and then hand over the gift card information as payment. Unfortunately, if you do, you’ll be out the money, and you won’t get anything in return. These scammers know that bad reviews scare people away, so they may post a few positive reviews about the site. They shut down the site before people post complaints — usually in less than a month — and open under a new name somewhere else.
Buying an Amazon gift card to make a payment is NOT the same as using Amazon Payments, which provides some protections for buyers. Amazon Payments is a feature that allows Amazon members to pay for merchandise on other websites by logging in and using a payment method they’ve stored on their Amazon account. For example, if you use a credit card stored in your Amazon Payments account, you’re still using your credit card to make the purchase, and you get certain protections when you use a credit card. You don’t have the same protections when you pay with a gift card — virtually or physically. It could be tough to trace the money or get it back if something goes wrong. Of course, that’s not a problem if you’re sending the gift card to a friend or family member as a gift.
When shopping online, consider using a payment method that offers protections if you don’t get what you paid for.
From everyone here at R.C. Shea & Associates, have a safe, happy and healthy Holiday season.