Tips for Consumers: Possible Gift Card Fraud

Tips for Consumers
Possible Gift Card Fraud

Prepaid gift cards have exploded in popularity as holiday gifts. The National Retail Federation estimates that, in this holiday season, $25 billion in cards will be given to family and friends in the Hagerstown area and across America. Many of us will discover them among our presents. But con artists can steal the value of gift cards without anyone knowing. Here are two ways:
Some stores display their gift cards in an open area or on checkout hooks. The numbers on the cards are clearly visible. So the crook writes down these numbers, waits a few days--assuming the card will have been sold to someone - then logs onto the company's web site and tries to make a purchase, using the number of the card. If the purchase goes through, the scammer has the merchandise shipped to a "safe" location where it can't be traced to him.
Since the card was probably purchased as a gift, the recipient doesn't know his card is drained of its value until he tries to use it weeks later and discovers it is worthless.
If the cards are enclosed in a cardboard package with the number on the outside, scammers make a small incision, withdraw the new card and replace it with an old worthless card. The buyer has the package "activated," but never knows that someone else has stolen the valid card inside.
How can you protect your gift card purchases against fraud?
* Buy cards, which have numbers that are not in full public display. Encourage your favorite stores to protect the numbers of their cards.
* Use cards with "PIN" numbers on the back, which must be rubbed off. These are quite safe. If the PIN number hasn't been rubbed off, a thief cannot steal the card's value. So...
* Inspect the gift card before you buy. If the PIN number on the back has been tampered with, do not buy the card and inform the store so it can be alerted to the trick.
* Keep your receipt with the gift card. If you discover that someone has drained its value, return to the store and explain. Some retailers will accept your word and replace the card, although they are under no obligation to do so.
* Prepaid cards are an excellent gift. But just be sure the cards you buy and their PIN numbers are kept secure by the store.

To file a complaint visit: or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.