TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - CVS Pharmacy customers will see new signage in stores to combat gift card scams in Arizona.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office partnered with CVS Pharmacy to launch a new consumer fraud awareness program.
Since Jan. 1, 2019, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has received approximately 220 consumer complaints related to gift card scams.
“We know from national statistics there are literally millions of dollars involved here, but I always tell people that it doesn’t matter what the amount is ultimately, because if you are living on a fixed income and maybe you have a minimum wage job and you lose $100, that could be your entire discretionary income,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Now, all roughly 200 CVS Pharmacy stores in Arizona will soon display STOP signs at gift card displays to prompt customers to stop and think about why they are buying the gift card, and remind them gift cards can never be used to pay a government agency.
“Taking steps all the way along is important and knowing your customers is your best insurance,” said Tom Moriarty, Executive Vice President, Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer, and General Counsel at CVS Health.
“Our store manager was telling me earlier today that she in fact intervened in a situation a few days ago where she knew the customer and she knew the customer’s purchasing habits and saw something that didn’t sit right and just asked one or two questions and by doing that was able to expose this customers was about to fall victim to a scam,” Moriarty said.
Every year, consumers lose millions of dollars in scams involving gift cards and/or reloadable cards.
“Gift card and prepaid card scams are a challenge to retailers and customers across the country – especially during the holiday season when gift card sales peak and the popularity of gift cards continues to increase during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” said Moriarty.
“I think any time there is a crisis... it brings out the best in people, but it also brings out the worst in some people. People will try to take advantage of the crisis. They will try to prey on your emotions,” said Brnovich.
Brnovich’s office said there are many different variations of gift card scams, but one of the most common involves government imposters.
Oftentimes, fraudsters call and claim to be from a government agency and ask you to pay off your debt/balance with gift cards.
If the debt is not paid immediately, the scammer threatens to arrest you or drop your government benefits or services.
Brnovich and Moriarty hope the signs help people think twice before purchasing a gift card.
If you paid a scammer with a gift card, file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. You may also contact the AGO at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6648, or outside the metro areas at (800) 352-8431. Bilingual consumer protection staff is available to assist.