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As holiday season arrives, Arizona's attorney general warns of gift card scams

Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced an awareness campaign to let Arizonans know that government agencies will never ask for gift cards as a form of payment.

PHOENIX — The Arizona Attorney General’s Office partnered with CVS to help cut down on consumer fraud during the holiday season.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced an awareness campaign to let Arizonans know that government agencies will never ask for gift cards as a form of payment.

As of 2019, the Attorney General’s Office has investigated roughly 200 cases of fraud where someone posed as a government employee claiming that the victim owed them money and directed the victim to send payment in the form of gift cards.

“That is because we know that gift cards are very often essentially cash,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich said. 

“They are non-traceable, people don’t keep the receipts sometimes, so it creates all sorts of issues and creates opportunities for the con artist.”

As part of the campaign, CVS stores across the state will place stop signs that remind people that the government does not accept gift cards.

“This is a classic example of a public-private partnership where they [CVS] have stepped up to work with us, at no taxpayer expense, to make sure that we have this program in place to protect consumers and that’s what our office is always about,” Brnovich said.

Retail Today, a retail industry magazine, predicts consumers will spend 19% more on gift cards this year over 2019. The magazine points to an upward trend in gift card spending Over the years, coupled with COVID-19 and it’s effects on how consumers shop.

Another aspect of the campaign is to have CVS employees looking out for their customers.

“We have warning triggers that if you’re buying over a certain amount it alerts our employees and has our employees intervene with you to ask questions.” Tom Moriarty, CVS Healthcare Executive Vice President, explained. 

Employees may ask a customer what the gift cards are for or whom they are buying the gift cards for, to make sure that their customers are not falling for a scam.

While some customers may bristle at being asked about their purchase, Moriarty sees it as an informal conversation that could benefit the customer.

“It’s that interpersonal knowledge that we have, on the store level, that we think is hugely valuable and important to assist our customers and making sure they don’t fall victim to these types of scams.”

CVS and the AG’s Office hope to see a reduction in gift card-related scams this year as the goal of the program.