By Jon Delano

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Gift card scam artists are really looking for victims, says state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

At a press conference in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, followed by a sit-down with KDKA-TV money editor Jon Delano, Shapiro says gift card scams are getting worse in Pennsylvania.

Delano: “Do you see an uptick in these scams during the holiday season?”

Shapiro: “We do. Look, in part there is a lot more volume in sales, but in part because that’s where the scammers are targeting. That’s the time of year they’re targeting.”

gift cards Pa. Attorney General Issues Warning About Increased Gift Card Scam Cases

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

More people than ever are falling victim.

“We’ve seen, in just the last few years, it’s tripled in number,” he said.

The most typical form of the scam involves grandparents.

“A grandmom or grandpop will get a call from seemingly a grandchild, saying, ‘Look I’ve been detained or I’ve been arrested or someone’s holding me against my will, and you have to send money right away to get me out of here,’” says Shapiro.

And then there’s the fake IRS call.

“Another common scam is the IRS scam, people call claiming to be from the IRS, claiming that you owe back taxes, claiming you better pay it immediately or you’re going to be arrested,” Shapiro said.

But instead of asking for cash, the scammers ask the victims to send much harder-to-trace gift cards from a store like Best Buy, Target and Walmart, all three of which are now working with the Attorney General’s office.

“We don’t want scams taken on our customers, so we share the same goal,” said Parker Brugge, with Best Buy.

“We don’t want this to happen in our stores. We understand because of the size and scope of Walmart things are going to occur, but we want to minimize that as much as possible,” added Jason Klipa of Walmart.

So Best Buy and Walmart are now limiting the total value of a single gift card to $500, down from $1,000 to $2,000 with an overall card limit of $1,000 TO $2,000, down from $5,000 or $6,000.

As for consumers, says Shapiro, “You cannot pay bail, lawyers, or the IRS using gift cards.”

“The bottom line is, if someone demands payment in the form of gift cards, it is a scam,” Shapiro adds.

For more information on how to protect yourself from scams, visit the state Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at this link.