DirectTV scam asks for Amazon gift card payment

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What sounds like a great deal from Direct TV and Amazon could be a scam.

Stephen Fago says he got a phone call offering a two-year, locked-in price for Direct TV, complete with an upgrade for premium channels. They told him they were partnering with Amazon and the deal was only good if he bought a $300 Amazon gift card.

Fago says when he called back, there was even a recording that had all the same prompts as the real company.

“They explained that I needed to get an Amazon gift card because it was Amazon doing the promotion, you know? Being a little leery, I called back and literally, when you call back, this 888 number that I called, you think you're talking to Direct TV.”

Fago says they even had the last few transactions on his account, making them seem legit, so he gave them the gift card number over the phone. They cashed it.

He was never notified of any upgrades and got suspicious. When he called Direct TV they informed him there was no such promotion being offered.

Direct TV has a warning on its website saying it doesn't solicit prepaid cards or gift cards as a form of payment. And that’s almost always the case, regardless of the company or agency. If someone asks you to pay with that method – it's likely to be a scam. When in doubt, call the company directly and ask if there’s a promotion underway.

Don’t trust the number on your caller ID, either. Scammers can use fake caller ID information to trick you into thinking you’re talking to someone you trust. It’s called ID-spoofing. 

Fago has reported this to police and Direct TV’s fraud division. There are numerous complaints filed about this same scam in various locations across the country.

The Better Business Bureau is investigating this as a potential scam as well. If something like this happens to you, report it to the BBB Scam Tracker.

BBB says one thing we know about scammers — they want money, and they want it fast. That’s why they usually ask people to pay a certain way. They want to make it easy for themselves to get the money, and nearly impossible for the victim to get it back. As soon as you put money on a gift card and share the code with them, the money’s gone for good.

Other payment methods scammers might ask for include iTunes gift cards, PayPal, re-loadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit, or Vanilla, or by wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram.

Bryan Oglesby with the Better Business Bureau Serving West Florida says using an Amazon gift card to make a payment is not the same as using Amazon Payments, which provides some protections for buyers.

Amazon Payments lets Amazon members pay for merchandise on other websites by logging in and using a payment method they’ve stored in their Amazon account. So if you use a credit card stored in your Amazon Payments account, you’re still using your credit card to make the purchase, and you get certain protections when you use a credit card. You don’t have the same protections when you pay with a gift card. 

Oglesby says if a merchant other than asks you to pay using an Amazon gift card, it’s probably a scam. In fact, Amazon’s gift card terms don’t allow you to use Amazon gift cards to make payments anywhere besides and a few other specific sites.

Some Tips:
- Stop and Think - Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email. 

- Search Online First - Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “DirectTV/Amazon Promotion Scam” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.  Also check with BBB Scam Tracker.

- Don’t Trust your Caller ID - Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.