Identified Scam:

Common eBay Gift Card Scams & How to Protect Yourself

Don't trust anyone who asks for payment via eBay gift cards, even if they claim they are from a legitimate company or government agency.


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Updated 28 April 2022
Common eBay Gift Card Scams & How to Protect Yourself
Identified Scam:
Key Finding

Scammers impersonate well-known brands and agencies requesting payment via eBay gift cards.


Key Risk

Once you hand over the gift card number, the scammer will use the balance immediately—you are left without your item or your bill being paid.

Sections on this page
  1. Common eBay Gift Card Scams To Watch Out For
  2. How To Protect Yourself From eBay Gift Card Scams
  3. Red Flags of eBay Gift Card Scams
  4. Fallen for eBay Gift Card Scams?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

If you're shopping for someone who enjoys browsing the online auctions on eBay, an eBay gift card can be a good choice. However, if someone asks you for payment in eBay gift cards, you've stumbled into a scam. eBay gift card scams can strike when you're shopping for items on online marketplaces or simply when you open an email or answer the phone. 

You cannot reverse the transaction once the scammer has used the gift card redemption code. They can convert the gift card funds into cryptocurrency or cash, so the money isn't traceable, unlike a traditional payment method.  

Don't Ever Use Gift Cards as Payment

Always follow this rule: Gift cards are for gifts only. Don't ever use an eBay gift card to pay someone you don't know—anyone requesting this payment method is likely a scammer. This rule applies to any gift card, including Google Play, Walmart, Amazon, and iTunes cards.

Common eBay Gift Card Scams To Watch Out For

The first step to protecting yourself from eBay gift card scams is to know the typical methods scammers use to trick you. Here are some of the most common eBay card scams to watch out for.

Online Marketplace Shopping—A Common Place for eBay Card Scams

While browsing one of the online marketplaces (e.g., eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace), you spot something you'd like to buy. It's probably a great deal compared to similar items listed online. 

You inquire about buying the item, and the seller wants you to pay using eBay gift cards. Sometimes, you might hear an elaborate story about how the seller needs to sell something quickly due to an urgent situation, like a health problem or upcoming deployment.

Once you buy the eBay cards and provide the redemption codes to the seller, you never hear from them again, and you don't receive the item you intended to purchase.  

Example Message from Scammer

I can send you the item today once I receive payment. As I need the money asap (I am being deployed tomorrow), can you please pay using eBay gift cards? That way all you need to do is send me the gift card numbers, then I will send you your item. 

Utility Company Calls

You receive a call from someone claiming to be from your utility company. They instruct you to pay your bill using eBay gift cards, or they will shut your power or water off.

Sweepstakes Calls

Someone calls you to let you know you've won a contest that you never entered. They tell you you'll need to pay some fees with eBay gift cards to receive your prize.

Tech Support Scams

You receive a call or email from someone who states they work in tech support and there's a problem with your computer. You'll be asked to send payment upfront in the form of, you guessed it, eBay gift cards.

Example Call

Hi, this is Apple tech support, we are calling to let you know we've detected a virus on your computer. You will need to have this fixed right away or you will lose all of the files on your computer. 

We can fix this for you no problem today. You will just need to pay a fee of $100 using eBay gift cards. You can buy the gift cards and call me back to give me the card numbers then we will have your computer cleared of the virus.

eBay Account Calls

You receive a call about your account being frozen from someone who says they're from eBay Customer Service. To unfreeze your account, you need to purchase eBay gift cards. 

Fake Government Agency Calls

Scammers often pretend to be from a government agency, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration (SSA), to scam you out of your money. The caller claims that you owe a fine or need to pay fees using gift cards. With the Social Security hoax, the scammer will say you need to pay or you won't qualify for the benefits.

Note that these callers don't limit their gift card scam to eBay—they may ask for an iTunes gift card, Google Play card, or ask you to send money via wire transfers.

Suspicious Offers

Another possible version involves a caller offering a seemingly great deal, such as cutting your cable bill in half. However, the company only accepts payment in eBay gift cards.

Family Emergency Scams

A person you've never spoken with calls to let you know that a family member is in trouble or needs to be bailed out of jail. They'll ask you to pay with eBay gift cards. These scammers will often target grandparents.

Huge savings on eBay.com
Huge savings on eBay.com
  • Products from well known brands
  • Buyer protection via PayPal
  • Extensive seller ratings & reviews

Great deals across a huge range of brands
Free shipping on many products

How To Protect Yourself From eBay Gift Card Scams

eBay gift card scams can be very convincing. Depending on which version of the fraud you encounter, you could feel pressure to comply with the scammer's instructions. Here are some tips to protect yourself from eBay card scams:

  • Keep your gift card codes to yourself: Do not share your eBay card code with anyone else. In addition, whenever you purchase a gift card, keep the proof of purchase to verify that you bought it. 
  • Use eBay gift cards on eBay only: eBay gift cards are only designed for use at checkout on eBay.com. You should never use them as payment in any other setting or when requested via email or phone call.
  • Avoid sellers asking for payment via gift cards: Even if you're very interested in an item, don't engage with any seller requesting payment via eBay gift cards—or any gift card for that matter.
  • Use traceable forms of payment: It's never wise to use gift cards as a form of payment. Once the funds are spent, they aren't traceable. So instead, when you purchase items online, use a credit card. That way, if the seller turns out to be fraudulent, your credit card company will be able to investigate the fraud and possibly return your money
  • Research the seller/person: Research the person or company before you buy anything—or agree to anything over the phone. Check the name, email, phone number, and address if available. When you search the name, add in the word "complaint" or "scam." 
  • Ignore suspicious messages: Even if you think you recognize an email or text sender, don't respond if they ask for payment in eBay gift cards. The same goes for phone calls—hang up if the person asks for payment with gift cards.

Red Flags of eBay Gift Card Scams

Identifying these scams can help you avoid losing money and possibly, sensitive personal information. Here's what you should look for:

  • Requests for payment in eBay gift cards: Whether you contacted the seller or someone got in touch with you, a request for gift cards as payment is a scam. 
  • Urgent situations: The scammer usually makes up some emergency and then asks you to make the payment using the gift cards. 
  • Offer of a great deal: If you're trying to buy something online, it's probably priced much cheaper than other similar items in an online marketplace. If someone has called or emailed to notify you of an offer, it probably sounds like a good deal—except for the requirement of paying with gift cards. 
  • Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors: If you speak with a person via a messaging app, chat, or email, you may notice errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The person might sound as if they are not a native English speaker.

Example of an email in an eBay gift card scam.
Scammers can hack into email accounts or use fake account to pretend to be someone you know and ask you for gift cards.

Example of fake eBay email in eBay gift card scam.
In this example, the scammer has created a email to trick people into thinking it's from eBay Motors.

Fallen for eBay Gift Card Scams?

The most critical next step is to act fast after paying a scammer using eBay gift cards. The quicker you report the issue, the better your chance of recovering your money. Unfortunately, in most cases, many people don't realize they've been scammed until the gift card balance has already been used.

Contact eBay to Report Fraud

Contact eBay Customer Service as soon as possible to report that your gift card has been used in a scam. Keep the physical gift card and receipt so that eBay can verify it. Find out if there is still a balance on the card and if they can refund your money. 

Contact Details

eBay


Phone: 1-866-961-9253
Email: [email protected]

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Verified Contact Details

It's important to verify links and contact details to beat imposters.

Report the Scam to the Store (Where You Bought the Gift Card)

If eBay doesn't give you your money back, reach out to the store where you purchased the card. Although it's less likely the store will refund your money, it's worth trying. If there's a customer service number on the card itself, call it and see if they can block the gift card from being used. 

Report eBay Gift Card Scams to the Authorities

Making a report to the authorities can help them stop eBay gift card scams from happening to other victims. You can report the crime to your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission.  

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my money back if I've fallen for an eBay gift card scam?

Contact eBay to report the scam as soon as possible. Also, contact the store or site from which you bought the gift card to see if there's anything you can do. Unfortunately, it's unlikely you'll be able to receive a refund, but you may be able to get the card canceled before the scammer has a chance to use it.

Can I get a refund for eBay gift cards?

eBay gift cards are non-refundable and cannot be redeemed for cash. 

Is it normal for utility companies or government agencies to request payment via eBay gift cards?

No. Companies, including utility companies, and government agencies (e.g., the Social Security Administration or the IRS), do not accept payment via gift cards of any kind, including eBay gift cards. If someone claiming to be representing one of these companies or agencies asks for payment in eBay gift cards, it's a scam.

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