Since 2018, con artists around the country have increasingly turned to gift cards as a key tool in their scams. Sen. Victoria Gu and Rep. Julie Casimiro are pushing new legislation to educate consumers so they don’t become victims.
According to a 2022 survey from the AARP, approximately 13 million U.S. adults have purchased gift cards for scammers. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers reported losses of $233 million in 2021 to scams involving gift cards as the form of payment.
“We have seen an uptick in scam calls, especially ones targeted towards seniors,” said Senator Gu (D-Dist. 38, Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown). “This common-sense legislation will help alert people to a possible scam before they go through with the purchase of a gift card and lose their hard-earned money.”
Scammers use gift cards as an easy form of payment that can be difficult for authorities to trace. Often, scammers will “sell” products or services that do not exist and ask for a gift card as payment or tell someone they are past due on a utility bill and must make a payment in the form of a gift card or have their services shut off.
The legislation (2023-H 5732) would require any store that sells gift cards to post a conspicuous notice at or near the point of sale that cautions the purchaser about prepaid card scams and instructs the purchaser on what to do if they suspect they might be a potential victim of such a scam. New York and New Jersey have similar legislation.
“Unfortunately, there are bad actors out there specifically targeting older Rhode Islanders,” said Catherine Taylor, state director of AARP Rhode Island. “Lawmakers can help thwart scammers by passing bills like this one that raise awareness and provide critical education to consumers”
“We need to take fraud and abuse seriously,” said Representative Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter). “This bill will be a crucial tool in educating consumers. By working together with retail establishments, we can better protect Rhode Islanders from scams.”
Reprinted from the legislative press release.