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Google’s Scam Spotter cautions against gift card scams in new holiday spots

With gift card purchases expected to spike this holiday season, Scam Spotter is warning consumers about the risk of gift card-related fraud. Two new dramatized films portray common schemes that scammers use to ‘hook’ vulnerable consumers, including fabricated government-owed debts and fake family emergencies.

Scam Spotter, a platform created by Google last year to educate consumers about how to identify and avoid online scams, has unveiled a new holiday campaign designed to shed light on the growing issue of gift card scamming.

Since 2018, gift card-related scams have conned some $429.2m from Americans. According to experts, this year could be the worst yet for such schemes. With the global supply chain still facing massive operational issues, gift card spending is expected to spike 27% this holiday season, per new data from Blackhawk Network.

In two new holiday spots, created in partnership with Mischief @ No Fixed Address and Sandy Russel Creative, Scam Spotter stresses that if you’re asked to do something or solve a problem by using gift cards, you’re almost certainly getting scammed. The films, directed by DJ Caruso – who is known for his work on flicks including Disturbia and Eagle Eye – depict laughably dramatized renditions of common gift card scams, including demanding gift cards as payment to get a relative out of jail and paying off ‘unpaid taxes’ to the government via gift card. Both spots end with the tagline: “If it sounds unbelievable, it probably is. If someone asks for gift cards to solve a problem, it’s a scam.” Viewers are encouraged to visit Scam Spotter’s website to learn more.

Kevin Mulroy, partner and executive creative director at Mischief, tells The Drum: “For most of these scenarios, if you stop and think for a moment about what is being asked, the solve is pretty absurd. There’s no scenario in which a dramatic problem can be solved with gift cards.”

Today, the most common credit card scams include fabricated family or friend emergencies, government imposters, business imposters, fake tech support, romance-related schemes and fabricated prizes or other ‘good news’ scams. A common misconception is that only older consumers fall victim to these types of scams; however, even young people often get scammed. Last year, millennial consumers reported scam-related losses of close to $300m.

Scam and fraud victims often feel embarrassed or ashamed after the fact. Scam Spotter hopes to eliminate some of this stigma and spark more open conversations about the reality of scamming with its new campaign. The new video spots are part of an ongoing campaign to caution consumers against all kinds of scams. Beyond the creative, the campaign is being executed with media from Digilant as well as PR and influencer support from Dini von Mueffling Communications.

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