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Gift Card Scam

It is always advisable to be careful while selecting gift cards for your friends and loved ones. Cyber crooks have expertized in exploiting this popular form of gifting through tampering, deception and utter theft. Thus if Gift Cards are bought from a display rack of any store, then the buyer may become a victim of theft.

How it happens?

These days, cyber criminals have found a new way to steal your gift card balance. They simply jot down the card numbers in the store and wait for a few days to call and see how much balance they have on the card. Once the card is activated, they go online and start shopping. According to KOMO TV in Seattle, Wal-Mart shoppers have already been hit with such scam on several occasions.

However, this doesn’t work on all gift cards. While the crooks physically access gift card numbers by snooping the card from its packaging and dumping it back once the number is written down – it’s not always easy to hide the visibility of cards’ PIN number. Once the covering is scratched away, it cannot be put back. As a result, the packaging itself can reveal that the card has been tampered with. It is better to examine both side of the packaging irrespective of wherever you buy from. 

Some Other Scams 

There are numerous other ways where the users fall victim of scam:

  • Overstating Card Value: It happens when a reseller overstates the values of the cards they are selling. There is a very little scope for the buyers to understand such frauds.
  • Treacherous Employees: The employees steal Gift Cards from their displays; activate them with store scanners and then go on for shopping sprees. Occasionally, they use the stolen cards to purchase new cards to legalize their stolen merchandise.
  • Card Pilfers: There are thieves who pretend to be genuine customers swap blank cards (previously stolen) against new cards activated during a sale. Then they pretend to change their minds and ultimately cancel their purchases. The counter clerks remain clueless as they think they got the new cards back and the thieves walk out of the store with the new card in their pocket.
  • Buy Gift Cards from Wrong Dealers: Stolen cards can end up on auction sites where the unsuspecting bid can get a good deal. The NRF (National Retail Federation) advises consumers to buy gift cards only from a reputable dealer and never through any online auction because what you bid on might be a stolen one.
  • Manhandle Bar Code: Cyber criminals carefully slit open the packaging of bar code-bearing gift cards and replace the new cards with used ones where there are no funds. After these “empty” cards are sold, the activation of the bar code loads the real card (in thief’s possession) with funds and the genuine buyer remains empty-handed. 

How to avoid gift card scams?  Security tips from eScan

  • Purchase from Reputed Source: Purchase gift cards only from reputable sources. It is always better to get them directly from the store.
  • Examine Card before Buying: Gift cards should be examined carefully before buying. Never assume that if a store has gift cards under lock and key, then they are original and their PIN is not yet accessed. There might be signs of tampering.
  • Purchase Online Gift Cards from Official Portal of the Retailers: Purchase online gift cards from the official website of the retailer where they are intended to be bought. Never buy them from any auction sites even if they look like genuine ones.
  • Keep the Receipts: Keep your receipt as proof of purchase until the card value gets exhausted. In case any fraud happens, then you can show the receipt to the retailer and claim a replacement of the false card.
  • Scan the Card: Get your card scanned at the time of purchase to ensure that the gift card you bought is genuine and has the correct balance.
  • Restrict from giving Extra Information: Always remember that no reputable business can ask you for social security number, bank account information or even date of birth while purchasing a gift card. Asking for such details is absolutely unnecessary and irrelevant. It is advisable to check the authenticity of the retailer immediately.

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