Scam Alert: Don’t Become a Victim of a Gift Card Scam

Gift card scams in the US is a very big deal. According to the Mercator Advisory Group, in 2012 US consumers loaded $112.3 billion on gift cards. With the advancement of technology, thieves now have the upper hand in creating and executing different methods of the traditional gift card scam.

Gift Card Scam # 1

The thief goes into a store that has gift cards readily on display. They either write down the card’s identifying information or they lift the information from the card’s magnetic strip using a scanner. Then the thief continuously checks online to see if the card has been activated yet. Once the card has been activated, the thief spends the card balance online before the victim has a chance to take it out of its packaging.

Gift Card Scam # 2

In another gift card scheme, thieves apply their own bar-code sticker over the card’s actual bar-code while in a store. When the sticker is scanned at checkout to activate the card, it actually activates a blank card that the thief already has in their possession instead of the card that the consumer is purchasing.

Gift Card Scam # 2

In another scam, thieves purchase gift cards with a stolen credit card. Buying a gift car with a stolen credit card allows a thief to extract money from the credit card before the cardholder even notices that the card is missing.

Protect Yourself

1. Treat gift cards like a food purchase. Stay away from purchasing gift cards whose packages look like they have been tampered with or destroyed.

2. Don’t give out confidential information. There is absolutely no reason for a sales clerk to ask you for the number on the actual gift card. Do not provide them with the requested information. Challenge the request and ask to speak to the store manager. This is also true for those persons who contact you over the phone to “check the card’s value.”

3. Investigate online gift card seller. If you are buying a gift card online from a marketplace like Ebay or Gift Card Rescue, read what other buyers have had to say about the seller. Are they trustworthy? Were there any discrepancies? Always stay clear from making a purchase from a seller that has negative reviews.

4. Act fast. If you check your card’s balance and it is not what you have expected it to be, don’t wait to take action. Contact the card issuer immediately. With quick action you have a better chance of getting your money back as well as helping other people to not fall victim to the same thief.

Jessica Williams is Consolidated Credit’s Marketing Communications New Media Coordinator. As a member of the education team, Jessica focuses on helping consumers make better financial decisions while living debt-free. She has previously worked with Take Stock In Children, where she was a mentor and communications specialist, and, where she managed community relations, event planning, marketing, and public relations. Jessica attended both the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida where she received her B.S. in Interpersonal/Organizational Communications and Marketing. Connect with Jessica on Google+.