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North Dakota Attorney General warns of recent gift card scams

Consumer protection officials cautioned residents to be wary of scam artists during the holiday season.

A man in a black suit stands and speaks at a podium.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem presents North Dakota's 2020 crime statistics in his Bismarck office on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.
Michelle Griffith / The Forum
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BISMARCK — North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is warning residents to be mindful of fraud during the holiday season after a recent spate of gift card scams racked up tens of thousands of dollars.

The Attorney General's Consumer Protection division reported Monday, Dec. 13, that it received nine reports of gift card fraud totaling $45,000 over the last two weeks.

Stenehjem advised residents to buy gift cards only as presents for family or friends, noting "gift cards are a favorite tool of scam artists."

The Federal Trade Commission says many scams begin with a phone call from someone impersonating a government agency. Scammers may threaten arrests or freezing bank accounts if targeted people don't make a payment immediately and may even stay on the phone while they go to the store to purchase a gift card.

Once a victim has purchased a gift card, the scammer asks them to read off the numbers on the back — the only information needed to transfer the balance of the card into their own account.

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The victims of the recent scams reported to the Attorney General ranged between 26 and 75 years old and fell for a variety of tactics, including phone calls from fake government officials informing them that they could lose their benefits, phony online job listings, fake sweepstakes and payment error emails claiming to come from Amazon or other well-known businesses.

“The government and legitimate companies do not demand that you make payments using gift cards," said Parrell Grossman, director of the Consumer Protection division. "If that is what you are told, it is guaranteed to be a scam."

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