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Don’t be scammed out of a gift card this year

December 17, 2018

In some ways, a gift card is the perfect gift because you know the receiver will get exactly what they want. But the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning of a gift card scam that may be grifting holiday shoppers out of their money this year.

HOW THE SCAM WORKS: The process of stealing the money off gift cards can vary. The scam is most likely to occur at retail locations where the gift cards are left out on racks unattended. With the simplest method, a hacker takes cards off the rack, writes down the gift cards’ numbers, and scratches off the strip on the back of the cards to get the security codes. Once he has that information, he puts replacement strips—easily available online—over the codes and exits the store.

Later, after you buy one of those cards and load money onto it, the hacker gets an alert that tells him that the funds have been loaded onto the card. The crook has used software that periodically checks the card balance via the internet, so the funds disappear soon after being loaded and you are left giving an empty present.

In addition, BBB has received a report on BBB Scam Tracker about a site that claims to help you check the balance on your gift card, but in reality, the site steals your balance. If you need to check a gift card balance, go to the site listed on the back of the card itself or, if there is none, go to the website of the company and look for a link to the gift card page.

HOW TO SPOT THIS SCAM

• Buy online. Buy gift cards online directly from the retailer, chain restaurant, or other issuer. Criminals don’t have easy access to those cards. Buy online especially if you’re purchasing a high-value gift card.

• When buying in retail stores, be careful. Don’t buy in-store racked cards with easily accessible numbers and PINs. Look for gift cards kept behind the counter or in well-sealed packaging.

• Examine the gift card before purchasing. Inspect the package for tampering. Make sure the PIN is not exposed. Grab your gift card from the back of the rack. Scammers are more likely to put the ones they tampered with near the front, where they are more likely to be purchased.

• Register your gift card. If you can, register your gift card. If possible, change the security code as soon as you buy the card. Registering your gift card makes it easier to keep track of any misuse occurring, that way you can report it sooner and potentially end up saving the money that is stored.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For more about scams, go to BBB Scam Tips (BBB.org/ScamTips). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker).

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