Vt. AG says ‘gift cards scams’ top annual list of fraud schemes

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 7:56 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 5:20 PM EST
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WILLISTON Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Attorney General Charity Clark Thursday said her office is cracking down on scammers. As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Clark joined representatives from big retailers in Williston to announce a new effort.

“For many of us, scams are just a nuisance. But for people who fall for the scam, they can be devastating,” Clark said.

The AG’s Consumer Assistance Program, or CAP, received more than 1,000 complaints last year. Clark says common scams impacting Vermonters include unauthorized package delivery, computer tech support, and sweepstakes or lottery scams. But above all, she says the biggest scourge is the gift card scam. “$228 million was lost to gift card scammers last year -- a huge number,” she said. “Gift cards are for gifts. If someone is asking you for payments, using a gift card, it is a scam.”

The scheme commonly starts with a scammer calling a victim on the phone and impersonating a well-known business or government authority. They claim the victim owes money and that to erase the debt they should obtain a gift card from a store like Walmart and then send the numbers on the card.

To help combat this scam, Clark joined Thursday with representatives of Walmart and community leaders to announce her “Stopping Scams Together” initiative and provide tips on how Vermonters can protect themselves.

“When you are receiving one of these unsolicited phone calls or an email, it’s important to stop and talk to a trusted source. Just interrupt the flow of that scam for a moment to kind of recover your senses,” said CAP’s Christopher Curtis.

Walmart’s Chris Buchanan says they recognize the important role that retailers play in stopping scams and says they are promoting prevention and education to both their customers and employees. “We train our associates to be on the lookout for possible signs of fraud and general consumer awareness. What does that mean? In-store signage, brochures and videos, online fraud warnings, that type of stuff,” he said.

Officials say holidays and the approaching tax season are prime times to be alert. “We’re gonna see in February and March, a big third or uptick in IRS fraud scams,” Curtis said. “The IRS is not going to call you and threaten you. If there’s something wrong with your taxes, you would receive something in the mail.”

CAP recovered more than $452,000 for Vermont consumers last year, nearly doubling the total amount of recoveries from the previous year.

Vermonters are urged to report scams at the AG’s Consumer Protection website.

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