'Hang up!': Scam call asks you to pay off your 'government' debts with gift cards, sheriff warns

'Tis the season for scammers. 

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office is warning about criminals targeting people through phone calls that say they owe thousands of dollars to the government and they must buy gift cards to settle their debts. 

"HANG UP! It's a scam and a criminal is trying to trick you out of your money," the sheriff's office warned on Facebook. 

The holidays are prime time for criminals looking to scam people out of their hard-earned money. Some use phone call scams like this one; others may us a text message posing as a package tracking notification. In other cases, callers pose as a relative or grandchild saying they need money to avoid being arrested or to buy gifts for family members for the holidays and ask you to transfer money or buy gift cards and give them the information.

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Authorities offered these tips to help you avoid becoming a victim:

  • Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites, or on social media.
  • Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure. A site you’re buying from should have https in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.
  • If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check reviews.
  • Never wire money directly to a seller or individual that you do not know or cannot verify their identity.
  • Avoid paying for items with pre-paid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive your item.
  • Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. If you see a suspicious transaction, contact your credit card company immediately to dispute the charge.
  • And remember: If the "deal" seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Call your credit card company or your bank immediately. Dispute any suspicious charges.

"Scammers don't take a holiday, especially during the holidays. Be alert and be cautious to avoid being scammed."

If you think you may have been a victim of fraud, or you're not sure, call the Volusia County Sheriff's Office non-emergency number at (386) 248-1777.