While gift cards are ideal for that hard-to-buy-for person in your life, creative thieves have found ways to scam the system… at your expense.

Here are the common types of gift card theft, along with ways you can avoid it:

  • Web-based resale sites.

    If you consider purchasing a gift card second-hand, please use caution. Either the value of the gift card itself could be overstated by the seller, or the seller could retain the bar code information to use the card for their own purchases before you, as the buyer, have a chance to use the card. Further, you don’t know how the gift card was purchased, i.e. it could have been purchased using stolen credit card information. To protect yourself, check the balance of the gift card prior to paying for it and look for a silver scratch-off strip that may hide a security code required when the gift card is redeemed. If it’s scratched of, you run a higher risk of being scammed.

  • Store-based fraud.

    While this type of fraud is not as common as it once was, it can still happen since many retailers have large displays in its stores for buyers to select gift cards to a variety of businesses. Thieves have been known to scam consumers in two ways: 1. They will record the barcodes from random cards at the store, then regularly call the customer service number on the card to check for an available balance. Once the card is activated, the thieves will quickly attempt to make purchases on your dime. 2. Thieves have cut open the packaging the gift card is displayed in and exchanged the actual gift card for a fake card. Once the card is activated from a barcode on the packaging on the card and the thief confirms this by calling the number on the physical card, the thief will make their purchases. To protect yourself, inspect the packaging on the gift card to ensure no signs of tampering and check that the barcode of the physical card is exposed and scanned when you purchase it. You can also look for a security feature on the card where a code is covered by a silver strip and only accessible when it’s scratched off.

And, of course, you can eliminate the risk of gift card fraud and present your loved one with a check instead!