Buying a gift card as a gift is both an easy way to purchase a gift for someone and a good way to make sure that the gift is something that the receiver of the gift can actually use and enjoy.  It definitely is a win-win situation.  However, scammers are always ready to take any good thing and turn it into a scam. The most common gift card scam involves scammers going to racks of gift cards in stores and using handheld scanners that are easy to obtain, read the code on the strip of the card and the number on the front.  They then put the card back in the display and periodically check with the retailer by calling its 800 number to find out whether the card has been activated and what the balance is on the card.  Once they have this information they can either create a counterfeit card using the information they have stolen or order material online without having the actual card in hand.

Now a new gift card scam is turning up in which the scammers place a sticker with the barcode of a a gift card that the scammers possess over the actual barcode of the gift card in the rack.  Thus when the card is taken by the gift card purchaser to the checkout counter to have the card activated, the funds used to purchase the gift card are credited to the card of the scammer.  It is not until the gift card purchaser tries to use his or her card that it is discovered that there are no funds credited to the card.

TIPS

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.

To avoid becoming a victim of this new gift card scam, always inspect the card carefully to make sure that the barcode has not been tampered with in any fashion.  You also can avoid becoming a victim of this scam by only buying cards from behind the customer service desk that would not be accessible by scammers to perpetrate this scam.

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