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Be wary of requests to pay using gift cards

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While New Brunswickers are staying safe at home to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, scam artists in the community and online are trying to take advantage of their vulnerabilities. The Financial and Consumer Services Commission (FCNB) is warning consumers to be wary of unsolicited offers that are COVID-related, particularly if they are asked to pay using a gift card.

“From bogus offers for free face masks to fraudsters passing as health officials to collect personal information, frauds and scams evolve and adapt at a rapid pace to capitalize on our fears and stress,” said Alaina Nicholson, Director of Consumer Affairs. “However, the red flags of fraud remain the same. In many of the recent reports, being asked to pay by gift card is one of the red flags that we are seeing.”

FCNB reminds consumers that no legitimate organization or business will ask clients to pay a fee using a gift card, and neither would someone selling an item from a buy-and-sell website.

“Gift cards are used by fraudsters because once the card has been activated and the fraudster has the number and code, they are virtually untraceable,” said Nicholson. “Fraudsters will also try to pressure you to act quickly by offering limited time offers, threats of fines and other high-pressure tactics so that consumers do not have the time to think before they act, which is another red flag of fraud. Asking questions and thinking seriously before making financial or purchasing decisions is the best way to protect yourself from being victimized by a scam artist or from making a decision that is not in your best interest.”

More red flags of fraud and details on common scams targeting New Brunswickers are available online. Consumers can receive regular updates, tips and fraud alerts from FCNB by following the organization on social media.

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation regulating mortgage brokers, payday lenders, real estate, securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Educational tools and resources are available online.