We love getting gift cards.
What’s not to love? Someone hands you money to be spent at a fabulous store, with a complete lack of guilt that your money isn’t going into your IRA, because they don’t give that option at stores (“Would you like cash back for your Roth?”).
But let’s not get carried away imagining fiscally responsible retailers. Instead, a warning: The latest scam that has come to our attention has to do with stripping the value from gift cards, so the well-meaning shopper tries to pay with a card that has no value.
The Worthless Gift Card Scam
Dave Jones, CEO of GiftCardLab.com, explained to us how it works:
A gift card can’t be used until it’s activated, which happens when someone buys it. Thieves are going into stores, writing down or scanning the card numbers of inactive, not-yet-sold gift cards and, then using a program to track the balance on the cards. Once the cards have been purchased by the real consumer, the thief will be informed either through his program (or by periodically calling the gift card number to “check the balance” on his card) that the card is active and how much it’s worth. He then uses the card online. The unknowing consumer gives the gift card to someone, and when the gift recipient tries to use the card, it’s empty.
Scambusters.org notes that this practice isn’t exactly rampant, but that it’s a considerable danger when it comes to gift cards that are displayed in a store before sale. To that end, they recommend avoiding purchasing gift cards that are displayed by a checkout counter or on a shelf, and to register your gift card with the retailer’s website, if possible.
Seems like an easy fix to us!