"These are sophisticated criminal enterprises. It's not one against one. It's one against thousands."
The crooks learn a bit about you in advance, often doing some research online, seem legitimate and can be extremely persuasive.
After all the scam warnings, one might be amazed that anyone would go out and put hundreds or thousands of dollars on gift cards for strangers.
But the demand for gift cards continues to build, enough so that the AARP has launched a special campaign designed to crack down on Gift Card Payment Scams, including information at its web site, www.aarp.org/giftcards.
Consumers also can call the AARP Fraud Watch Network at 877-908-3360.
Stokes wants to work with retailers to test intervention strategies at the store to stop consumers from losing their money buying gift cards for crooks.
It's not enough to post signs that warn of potential gift card scams. Perhaps, she says, a video could be created to help store clerks understand the signs of a consumer under stress who is under the scammer's ether.
Consumers who are buying gift cards for a scammer might be overly anxious, appear worried or look scared, Stokes said.
Sometimes, scammers will convince consumers that the gift cards, like Google Play, Steam, or eBay, can be used as electronic vouchers to pay bills or taxes. Or maybe the phony story involves using the gift cards to cover costs before collecting a sweepstakes prize.
"If victims ask questions about why gift cards are being used for payment, scammers invent a plausible excuse, such as that the government has recently entered a contract with a gift card company to handle transactions," according to a Better Business Bureau alert.