Is Your Boss Asking You To Pay With Gift Cards? It’s A Scam! Avoid It

The scammers are persuasive, insistent and use emotions to push you into the fraud. Read on to understand how you can avoid coupon-related scams received via national or international numbers.
gift cards, 
international numbers
scam, gift cards, international numbersShutterstock

Pratap Vikram Singh, a Delhi-based journalist received a (fake) message from his ex-employer asking to purchase ‘Apple Store Gift Cards online’ for his clients. The scammer impersonated Rohin Dharmakumar, CEO of The Ken, a news media platform by using his face as a profile image on WhatsApp and targeting an ex-employee of the company. There are a variety of fraudulent or deceptive schemes prevalent online, where people are asked to make payments/ share account details or OTP/participate in money multiplying schemes etc. via email, phone, or text. Scammers now also use ‘gift cards’ from well-known brands for payment as a means to dupe people out of their money.

How to identify a scam?

While the specifics of the scams vary from one case to another, scammers generally follow a common pattern. “Typically, the scammer/fraudster will claim that they are not in town, in a meeting or conference or out of commission for one reason or another and therefore they need the assistance of the victim in buying these gift cards,” says Ayan Sharma, Head of Public Policy and Advocacy, BTG Advaya.

First, they connect with a victim by phone, email, through social media, or online. (Look at this message received by Pratap Pic 1: Hi Pratap please get back to me as soon as you get my text, Thanks Rohin Dharmakumar).

Pic 1
Pic 1

Second, they create a sense of urgency. (Pic 1: Are you free at the moment.... I need you to get something done urgently and I want you to handle it... is that okay with you?)

Then they ask for payment using gift cards, and they instruct the victim to purchase gift cards online (See Pic 2,3). 

Pic 2
Pic 2
Pic 3
Pic 3

The scammer then demands or instructs the victim to provide the email with the claim code on the gift card by phone, text message, or email - and then disappears. (See pic 3,4).

Pic 4
Pic 4

Pallav Prince, a Delhi-based application developer has twice encountered such fraudulent gift card scams in his previous role. Once was by the name of his professor asking urgently to buy him Amazon gift cards. “Hey Prince, I am in a meeting, please buy an Amazon coupon for a certain amount and send it to my colleague/Prof XYZ in reply to this mail/ or send it to this link”, the email read.

The second time, it was related to false claim that his email password had expired. It urged him to click a link and offered an Amazon Voucher as a reward. It stated, “Hi User, your email password is expired. Please click on the link to reset your password and get a chance to win an Amazon Voucher. This is a reward for all valuable users working in our organisation”.

Pallav deleted both emails and reported them to IT department of his organisation. He also advised his colleagues to stay alert.

But not everybody is fortunate like Pallav and Pratap to evade such invasive scams. The scammers are persuasive, insistent and use emotions and a sense of urgency to push you into the fraud."

How can you avoid falling into such scams?

Must verify the source:  “Always stick to verified sources for coupon codes. Check the official websites of retailers like Amazon or Flipkart, or rely on reputable cashback and coupon aggregators with a history of accuracy. These aggregators typically build relationships with retailers to provide legitimate codes and offers,” says Rohan Bhargava, Co-Founder of Cashkaro, a cashback and coupon application/platform.

Check the URL: Phishing attempts often use URLs that closely resemble those of reputable brands. Carefully examine the website address before clicking on a link. Look for misspellings or unusual extensions such as ".top" or ".xyz" instead of the standard ".com."

Check the Email: If you receive an email asking for money or other assistance, carefully check that it’s being sent from the correct email address of someone you know. “Scammers will often have an address that looks accurate but is one or two letters off. If it’s a call requesting help for someone in financial trouble, hang up and call that person to check if it’s a real situation,” Ayan Sharma asserts.

Don’t Fall for the Urgency: If the other person is trying to rush through and asking you to act urgently, it is a tell-tale sign of fraudulent activity. Be cautious and verify the credentials of the email sender or the caller before making any transaction.

If the person on the other side claims to be indisposed and inaccessible due to any reason – in a conference, in a foreign country, in a hospital, etc. – it may be a trick to prevent you from cross-verifying the fraudster’s claims. “Do not believe the concocted story and contact the sender through known, verified contact channels to verify the email/call’s content,” Sharma says.

Check the Validity: Genuine coupon offers usually have a clear validity period. ‘Extreme discounts or promotions with open-ended timelines should raise a red flag,’ Bhargava notes.

She further emphasises that people should ‘understand the discount Logic’. While significant discounts are attractive, they should be realistic. If a coupon offers an unbelievably low price on a popular item, it's likely a scam.

Grammatical Errors: Reputable companies maintain high standards for their marketing materials. Typos, grammatical errors, or poorly formatted text in a coupon offer can be an indicator of a fake. For example, the scammer communicated with Pratap with texts filled with typos and poor sense of grammar.

When in Doubt, Discard: If you're unsure about the legitimacy of a coupon offer, it's always better to not opt for it on the side of caution. 

By following these steps and remaining vigilant, consumers can avoid falling prey to fake coupon scams and continue to enjoy the benefits of online shopping with confidence. 

What to do if you have already fallen for a gift card scam?

  • Lodge a complaint with the concerned Gift Card company immediately at the earliest. 

  • Collect the relevant information and details of the beneficiary from the concerned company

  • Collect all transaction details from the concerned company

  • Make a copy of all e-mails or SMSs received related to the alleged transaction

  • If this turns out to be a bigger scam, wherein you have lost a huge sum of money then lodge a complaint at the cyber cell of the nearest police station explaining the incident in detail along with all the above-mentioned documents or you can also file a complaint on

What to do if you have been contacted by an international number?  

“The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has cautioned mobile users against receiving calls from foreign origin numbers like +92, +64, and other international code numbers on WhatsApp,” Sharma informs. DoT has also warned people to not fall prey to individuals claiming to be government officials on calls they receive. 

Mobile users after receiving these calls and being harassed on multiple occasions by such individuals report such fraud communications at the ‘Chakshu-Report Suspected Fraud Communications’ facility of the Sanchar Saathi portal ( 

People can also report instances of where they have been victims of cybercrime or financial fraud at the central cyber-crime helpline number 1930 or   

By Following such proactive reporting citizens will be able to help the government and law enforcement agencies in preventing the misuse of telecom resources for cyber-crime, financial fraud, etc. 

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