Saving Americans Millions: AARP Offers Retailers Free Training To Prevent Gift Card Fraud

Cheerful senior businessman paying with a credit card.
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AARP launched two new training courses to teach major U.S. retail employees how to spot and stop gift card and wire-transfer exploitation. Walgreens and Best Buy have both signed on as inaugural retailers utilizing the AARP BankSafe training, AARP said in a press release.

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“AARP’s BankSafe program gives frontline employees information and tools they need to stop scams and protect consumers — especially seniors — from losing their hard-earned money due to financial exploitation,” Debra Whitman, executive vice president and chief public policy officer at AARP, said in a blog post.

AARP said that victims of wire fraud last year reported collectively losing $483 million, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Gift card scams accounted for another $233 million in losses, with the average victim losing $1,000 — that’s up from $700 in 2018,

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Sales of gift cards have rapidly increased over the past few years and are expected to reach $221 billion by 2024, AARP said. In addition, 34% of Americans said they or someone they know had been victims of gift card scams so far in 2022, and 31% in 2021, while 23% said they received a card with no funds on it, according to AARP.

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“Gift card fraud scams are a serious issue and, without knowing the facts, anyone can become a victim,” said Kia Hakimi, Best Buy’s Vice President of Global Threat Detection and Response. “In retail, these scams often begin outside of a physical store. The BankSafe training helps employees with the knowledge and skills they need to spot the signs and help stop gift card fraud from harming others.”

AARP said the most common scam is where the target is approached to pay for something by purchasing gift cards. The scammer convinces the victim to either pay a fee to claim a large prize, sweepstakes or lottery; pay an upfront fee for a service or product; or do a favor for a friend or someone at work. AARP added that one-fourth of these consumers were warned by a store clerk or manager that their gift card purchase could be part of a scam.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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