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Gift Cards: Scams and Risks


Gift cards are meant to be simple purchases, that make your life easier, when it comes to those last minute gifts or shopping for those people who are difficult to find a gift for. You can purchase them for a variety of retailers or restaurants at one single store, which can really make the term "one-stop-shopping" a reality. This ease of purchase and ability to find them for many different retailers, however, make them prime for scammers to take advantage.

Over the years, gift card scams have continued to become more and more advanced which can make detecting them more difficult. Scammers use different methods to access the card information or replace the card information with their own data. In turn, when you purchase the card and add funding to them, the scammers already have the information and are using the funds almost immediately. It's unfortunate, but scammers won't care that they just emptied the card you just purchased.

In order to lower your risk of purchasing a gift card that has been tampered with, here are some tips you can follow.

Ensure gift cards you purchase are located in a place where employees are able to monitor them. Gift cards are often placed toward the front of the store, or near the registers, to allow people who are in a hurry to find them easily and make their purchase quickly. By purchasing gift cards that are placed closer to employees, can reduce the risk of tampering.

Check the card for tampering. Feel the holder, to ensure the card is inside and that it is a complete card. Check for stickers or labels that do not feel original to the card. Ensure the holder is crisp and does not show any signs of peeling, lifting, or re-gluing. Since gift cards have no value until activated, scammers are able to steal unactivated gift cards, tamper with them outside of the store, and return them to the store without needing any assistance from employees. 

Purchase gift cards directly from a trusted website. The safest way you can purchase gift cards is directly from the retailer, via their own website. By avoiding the interaction at a retail store, you are removing the product from the reach of a scammer. While this does require making the purchase in advance in order to receive a physical gift card, many retailers do allow for digital gift cards to be sent or printed out via your home printer for those last minute gifts.

Gift cards have no value until they are activated. If you have concerns that the gift card you are going to purchase has been tampered with, speak with someone at the retailer where you are making the purchase. Seeking someone in customer service or management would be your best option. Ask if they would allow you to open the gift card in their presence to ensure it has not been tampered with or altered. While this is not a common practice, some retailers might be okay with this request. However, if they are not open to this, please be courteous and follow their policies.

Purchasing a gift card is meant to be convenient and easy to find for anyone. By being aware of the different ways a card can be tampered with, you can reduce the risk of ending up with an empty card. If there is ever any doubt in your mind, simply select a different card and present the gift card that caused doubt to the store. Your caution and awareness of this scam can keep you safe as well as others.

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