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.  I have been warning you about gift card scams for more than ten years.

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 where the scammers are selling phony, worthless gift cards on legitimate appearing websites.  You may be tempted to buy a gift card at a discounted rate at one of many online sites that enable people to sell their unwanted gift cards from particular retailers.  While there are many legitimate sites that will allow you to do this, it is not a good idea to buy a card from these sites because the card you buy may have been stolen or the value of the card may already have been used.


When buying a gift card, only purchase cards at brick and mortar stores 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.

If you are buying a gift card online make sure that you only purchase the gift card from the company’s official website.  Scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists are adept at constructing phony retail websites that appear to be legitimate.  In these websites, which sometimes are counterfeit sites of legitimate retailers, they offer popular products at extremely low prices.  However shopping at these bogus websites will only result in your credit or debit card information being stolen while you never get the product you ordered.


If you are going to buy gift cards online you should restrict your shopping to well-known, legitimate retailers and even then, make sure you are actually on their websites and not that of a scammer.  You can do this by going to where you can find out who actually owns the website where you are considering shopping.  If, for instance, the Target website you are considering using is registered as being owned by someone in Nigeria, you can be sure it is a scam.

Even when shopping on a website that you are sure is legitimate, it is important to remember that while your liability for fraudulent use of your credit card is limited by federal law to no more than $50, your liability for fraudulent use of your debit card which is tied to  your bank account is unlimited if you do not promptly discover and report the fraud so always use your credit card for shopping whether you are shopping online or offline.

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