CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — According to the National Retail Federation, the top item people would like to receive most this holiday season is a gift card. It is certainly a simple way to take away the giver's stress over finding that perfect present! Unfortunately, con artists are using newer tactics to steal money using gift cards before the recipient can even use it.
Gift card spending is expected to reach $27 billion this holiday season, with gift card purchasers planning to buy an average of four cards. Scammers know funds can be taken without possessing the actual gift card. Additionally, gift card funds are extremely hard to trace.
So what are the best tips for ensuring gift card safety? According to the Better Business Bureau:
Examine the gift card. Before purchasing, be sure to give it a thorough look to make sure the PIN is not exposed, or the packaging hasn’t been tampered with. If anything looks suspicious, it’s best to let the store know and grab a new one. Scammers are known to remove gift cards from the store rack, record the numbers, and then put it back on the rack – usually in the front of the display so it’s purchased quicker (It’s a good rule of thumb to grab gift cards from the back of the rack). Once the customer buys the card, the scammer gets a notification and wipes the gift card clean before the recipient has a chance to use it.
Research the merchant terms. It’s best to double check the terms and conditions, expiration date or any fees tied to the gift card before you decide to purchase one. Some stores charge service or setup fees or limit the gift card to in store only.
Register your gift card. If the cashier allows the option to register your card, take full advantage. Registering your gift card makes it easier to keep track of issues of any misuse occurring, that way you can report it sooner.
Use caution when buying from an auction site. If you purchase a gift card at an auction or on a third-party website, you may end up with a card that has no value, is expired, or was fraudulently obtained by another source. The seller could sell you a gift card that has an actual balance but may steal the numbers and start wiping the cards after you receive it. If someone asks to listen to your balance inquiry or wants to listen while you enter the numbers, it is most likely a scam.
The BBB also suggests not waiting to spend gift card funds. This eliminates fraud or lost balances.
If you've been the target of a scam, report it to the store, authorities and at bbb.org/scamtracker.