Gift cards form the basis of many scams, most prominently when scammers posing as government officials such as IRS employees demand payment of phony income taxes through gift cards.  However, lost in the many scam uses of gift cards is the value of gift cards as legitimate gifts.  During the recently passed holiday season, many people received gift cards as gifts.  Scammers are taking advantage of the proliferation of gift cards by setting up legitimate appearing, but phony websites that purport to allow you to insert the information about your gift card in order to find out the amount of the present balance on your gift card.  Unfortunately, these are scams and anyone entering the information will soon find that their gift cards are quickly emptied of value by scammers who use the gift card numbers to make purchases charged to their victims’ gift cards.  This problem is compounded by the fact that many scammers are able to manipulate the algorithms used by Google and other search engines to make their phony gift card registry websites appear high on a search engine search.

TIPS

The best place to find the amount of the remaining balance on any gift card you may have is the website of the retailer issuing the gift card.  You can generally find the domain name of the website on the back of the gift card.  If the website is not indicated on the back of the card, go to the website of the company that issued the gift card.  If the particular retailer who issued the gift card enables you to register the gift card with the retailer you should do so both for your own convenience and also to be able to more efficiently report any problems that occur.

When buying a gift card, only purchase cards from behind the customer service desk and if the card is preloaded, always ask for the card to be scanned to show that it is still fully valued.  Some retailers, in an effort to reduce gift card fraud, will also put a PIN on the gift card so that if the card is used online, the user must have access to the PIN which is generally covered and must have the covering material scratched off in order to be visible.  Unfortunately, many purchasers of gift cards are not aware of this so they don’t even notice that the PIN on the card that they are purchasing has already had the covering material scratched off by the scammer who has recorded the PIN.

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