By Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Gift cards have become widely popular with billions sold every year worldwide, but they remain a favorite among con artists too. The Federal Trade Commission says since 2018, Americans have lost $245 million paying off scammers with gift cards.

“Anybody that asks them to buy a gift card for any sort of business thing and read the numbers off, is running a scam. No legitimate business or government agency takes payment with gift cards,” said Steve Baker with the Better Business Bureau.

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Baker said his organization has seen losses from gift card scams triple in the past four years.

“If you buy gift cards and you read those numbers off, your money is gone and there is nothing you can do to get it back,” he said.

Janet Wray became the victim of a gift card scam when she received a phone call four months ago from someone claiming to be from Apple.

“He told me that my Apple cloud had been hacked and to the tune of about oh, I think $9,000,” Wray said.

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The caller sent an email that appeared to be from Apple Support showing details of the hack, but it was all a scam. He told Janet she needed to transfer funds in order to get her money back and clear the account and everything would be reimbursed.

“Oh, they’re slick. They are slick,” Wray said

Wray was instructed to go to several stores and buy two dozen gift cards. She spent more than $10,000 and gave the con artist the redemption numbers. Her money was gone.

“Every time I questioned him, he came back, he had a very smooth answer to it,” Wray said.  “It was one of those things where I absolutely could not believe I had done it.”

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Wray is sharing her story so others don’t become victims of these scams. Team