Watch Out for Gift Card Scams


Don’t judge the card by its package.

Consider the case of Kenneth. He has two grandsons in another state that he does not get to see as often as he would like. For holidays and special occasions he likes to send them gift cards to say he is thinking of them.

During Christmastime, he purchased a major brand gift card from a big box store and mailed it to his grandsons. The boys are very young so their mother was responsible for the gift card. When she opened the sealed packaging, she realized that her dad and sons had been scammed. A crook took a photocopy of the original card’s barcode, affixed that copy to a different, worthless gift card, and put the worthless gift card back into the packaging. Now all the scammer had to do was wait for money to be loaded onto the gift card.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it is very easy for scammers to see when the gift cards are activated because they use computer software that constantly checks the card balance.

If Kenneth had taken a couple of extra seconds to look at the visible barcode, he would have noticed that it was a fake. How many of us actually take the time to flip over a sealed, intact cardboard package?

Thnk about the stack of loose gift cards that stare at us while in the checkout line. How simple would it be for a crook to grab a couple and copy the numbers?

Here are some tips to protect yourself and the recipient of your gift.

  1. Double-check the packaging. Does it look like it has been tampered with?

  2. Look at the barcode on the back. It should be shiny not dull.

  3. The FBI suggests purchasing gift cards straight from the retailer online. Scammers do not have access to these cards.

  4. Avoid purchasing gift cards displayed in the open. If you must, choose one from the middle of the stack.

  5. Always keep your purchase receipt AND activation receipt just in case there is a problem. Ensure that the gift card number matches the one on your activation receipt.

  6. Bill collectors, reputable online sellers, law enforcement and/or government officials will NEVER ask you to pay via gift cards.

Source: Consumer Reports, Giftcards.com & CBS News

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