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Beware Scammers Demanding Payment Through Gift Cards

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Gifts cards are a popular present, but they are also an easy way for criminals to steal money.

The government is seeing a rising in the number of cases where scam artists convince victims to pay them off in gift cards, reports CBS2's Laura Podesta.

Whether it's a con artist impersonating an IRS agent with messages like "The reason of this call is to inform you IRS is filing a lawsuit against you," or a tech support scammer looking for payment to fix your computer, fraudsters are turning to gift cards to get your money.

The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers that more con artists are demanding gift cards as a type of payment, even issuing a warning online: "Anyone who tells you to pay with a gift card is a scammer and once you shared the gift card number and pin, your money is probably gone."

Often scammers will ask for iTunes, Google Play or Amazon gift cards which can be found in countless stores.

"Gift cards are great for con artists for three reasons," said Monica Vaca of the FTC. "First of all it's almost impossible for a consumer to reverse the transaction, (second) it's quick, it's very quick for the con artist and third it let's the con artist remain anonymous."

Vaca says in 2015 consumers lost $20 million in scams where gift card payments were involved.

In just the first nine months of this year that number ballooned to $53 million.

"So if someone calls you up and demands that you pay with a gift card, hang up, that is a scam," said Vaca. "If you have paid with a gift card contact the company that issued the card right away."

The FTC says in some cases you may be able to reverse the payment.

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