Tips on Avoiding Gift Card Scams This Holiday Season

With Christmas right around the corner, you might be heading out to buy some last minute gift cards for stocking stuffers and easy presents. In this blog post, I will tell you one thing to be sure and check before you head to the cash register with a handful of gift cards and share a few additional tips that could help keep you from getting ripped off from gift card scams.

A popular scam that picks up around the holidays when gift cards are flying off the racks involves thieves who pull back the decals obscuring the card’s redemption code and take a picture or copy the code, thus allowing them to redeem the gift card or transfer the balance long before the intended recipient can do so.

As this recent blog post points out, gift card scams happen every holiday season and just last week a Colorado resident reached out to security reporter Brian Krebs with photo proof of the gift card scam. Colorado reader Flint Gatrell found a bunch of Sam’s Club gift cards at a display rack at his local Wal-Mart that showed signs of compromise. In the photos Gatrell sent Krebs, which are posted on the blog, you can clearly see that the watermarked sticker had been peeled back and then replaced again.

While store employees are instructed to look for such red flags at the register,  when lines are long and attention spans are short, some cards that have been tampered with might sneak through. In light of that, here are a few tips to stay safe:

  • Look Closely: If you’re about to buy a gift card, be sure to look closely at the packaging and the sticker covering the unique code/card number and PIN and make sure nothing has been tampered with.
  • Buy From Stores Who Take Precautions: Some stores opt to keep gift cards behind the counter to prevent such tampering and these stores might be the safest place from which to purchase gift cards.
  • Take Care Selling Unwanted Gift Cards: If you get a gift card as a gift and decide to sell it, don’t let a potential buyer listen in on a three-way call for a balance check, warns this blog post. “While listening to the seller enter the gift card number, the buyer records the touch tone numbers entered to intercept the gift card number. The fake buyer then uses the gift card number without paying for it. Although this scam seems pretty obvious in hindsight, people are often fooled because the scam simply makes sense. It’s natural that a person buying a gift card would want proof of the gift card’s balance before completing the transaction.” Instead, sell a gift card through a reputable gift card reseller.

For other ways to stay safe around the holidays, visit our recent blog post “8 Tips on How to Avoid Identity Theft this Holiday.”

Photo Credit: the gift of visa, frankieleon, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

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