The national average gas price was $4.44 per gallon as of late July 2022, according to AAA. At this point, almost any means you think of to save when filling the tank looks good. But unfortunately, criminals looking to rip you off also have high gas prices on their minds.
Scammers are currently tricking drivers with offers of phony gas station gift cards, says the BBB. There’s no free gas, though. What they’re really after is your credit card number and other sensitive, personal information to use for fraud and identity theft purposes.
How gas gift card scams work
Gas gift card scams are prevalent mostly on Facebook and other social media platforms.
For example, in June, a Facebook ad claiming to be from Exxon offered $500 gas gift cards for only $1.95, according to AFP Fact Check. To get the gas gift card, all you had to do was click on a link to a “survey” and answer three questions. But it turns out Exxon had no such offer.
“We are aware of fraudulent Facebook ads that are falsely representing gas card promotions from ExxonMobil,” Julie King, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, told AFP. “We are not providing the services as claimed.”
A similar gas gift card scam purported to be from Shell. But no gas station chain is off-limits when it comes to scammers who want your credit card information for fraudulent purchases.
“They said I won a Shell gas card and had to pay $1.95 for shipping,” one consumer who fell for the scam reported to the BBB. “A day later, they took $89.95 out of my account. I called about the charge, and they fixed it, but the next day, another $89.95 was taken out again.”
Gas gift card scammers don’t stop at just your credit card details, either.
“Some consumers say they were asked to fill out a form and provide their name, phone number, physical address, credit card information, and other details,” says the BBB. “Sharing these details with scammers can open you up to identity theft.”
Find out: Why Gas Credit Cards Aren’t Worth It
How to avoid gas gift card scams
The first rule for avoiding gas gift card scams centers around plain old common sense. No gas corporation is going to give away $500 in gas for $1.95 or a similar piddly amount. As usual, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Here are more tips from the BBB on spotting and avoiding gas gift card scams.
Lock the door on “pay to win” offers
“No legitimate company will ask you to pay money to receive something you won or to get a free gift,” warns the BBB. “If someone asks you to pay even a small fee to receive a prize, you’re probably dealing with a scammer.”
Research the offer and company
No matter how legitimate an ad for free gas gift cards seems, do your online research to find out if the offer is real or a rip-off. First type the company name, “gas gift card” and “scam” into a search engine and see what kind of results come up.
If other people were scammed with this offer, you’ll likely find their warnings and complaints online. Contact the company purported offering the deal if it’s a well-known company by going to its official website. Call or email and ask whether the offer is real.
If you’ve never heard of the company offering free gas gift cards, it’s probably best to simply pass on the offer.
Find out: 8 Ways to Save Money at the Gas Pump
Don’t get impulsive
Scammers use tactics like “limited time only” or other ways to pressure you into thinking that you have to snap up the “free” gas gift card right away or miss out on a great deal.
“Scammers are hoping you’ll get so excited about their offer that you won’t stop thinking about any suspicious details,” says the BBB.