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America’s Favorite Gift is a Goldmine for Criminals

Survey of U.S. Consumers on Gift Card Scams

Have you ever given or received a gift card to find no value on it? Or, have you or someone you know paid for something – a past due bill, upfront fees for collecting lottery winnings, for example – by loading money onto a gift card and then sharing the numbers off the back of the card? If so, you aren’t alone. This AARP survey found 73 million U.S. adults have experienced one of these forms of gift card fraud.

Key Findings

  • Slightly more than a third (34%) of U.S. adults say they or someone they know has been targeted by scams seeking payment of a financial obligation by gift card.
  • Of those who were targeted for this gift card payment scam, a quarter (24%) of them followed through by purchasing gift cards in response to the request.
  • A quarter (23%) of consumers in the U.S. have given or received gift cards that had no funds on them. 
  • About one in four (24%) adults who were contacted to buy gift cards to pay a false debt, bill, or fee reported they bought the cards for this reason – this is approximately 13 million U.S. adults ages 18 and older.
  • More than half (54%) of respondents who tried to obtain a credit or refund for the missing balance were not able to.
  • The majority (89%) of all consumers agree – with 61 percent saying they strongly agree – that lawmakers need to do more to protect consumers from fraud and scams.


AARP commissioned AmeriSpeak Omnibus to conduct this survey among n=2,179 adults ages 18 and older. The survey was fielded from January 27-31 and February 18-22, 2022. Data are weighted to national Census benchmarks and balanced by gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, region.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Sauer at For media inquiries, please contact External Relations at

Suggested citation:

Sauer, Jennifer. Survey of U.S Consumers on Gift Card Scams. Washington, DC: AARP Research, April 2022.


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