WOODBRIDGE — Police say two Middlesex County were residents "scammed out of thousands of dollars" prompting a strongly worded warning about using gift cards to pay bills.

Woodbridge police did not offer specifics about the scam in their Facebook post but said that they involved a person being instructed to buy the cards in order to pay fees.

"Please remember YOU DO NOT USE ANY TYPE OF GIFT CARD LIKE TARGET OR GOOGLE PLAY OR ITUNES gift cards to PAY BILLS... PERIOD," read the post.

Police said that seniors are not the only ones falling for gift card scams although they did not offer specifics.

The FTC is even blunter in their warning about gift card scams: "Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer."

Police put some of the blame for scams being successful on store employees who don't ask questions when a customer buys a large amount of gift cards and encouraged customers to get involved to stop a potential scam.

"If you think they are buying strange amounts of gift cards, be nosey, they may thank you in the long run. The worst that can happen is they may tell you it’s not your business," read the post.

Woodbridge police issued a similar warning in August when a township woman lost $16,000 after she received a call from someone who claimed to be from "Homeland Security" and informed her of a warrant being out for her arrest on drug traffic and money laundering charges.

The caller said the matter could be taken care of with a payment of Google gift cards.

Some of the bigger scams reported this year in New Jersey:

The FTC warns about a variety of gift card scam situations:

  • Callers pretending to be from a utility company, telling you to pay your bill by gift card or they’ll cut off your power or water
  • Sellers on online auction sites who ask for gift cards to “buy” big items like cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs, tractors and electronics
  • Someone posing as a service member to get your sympathy, saying he has to sell something quickly before deployment and needs you to pay by gift card
  • Callers who say you’ve won a so-called prize, for a sweepstakes you probably never entered – but first, you have to use a gift card to pay fees or other charges
    someone buying something from you, probably online, who sends a check for more than the purchase price – and asks you to give them the difference on a gift card. (That check, by the way, will turn out to be fake.

"These are all scams. In fact, if anyone tells you to pay by gift card, or by wiring money – for any reason – that’s a sure sign of a scam. Every time," according to the FTC.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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