Scam alert: Police warn about gift card scam that is common weeks before Christmas
Gift cards make ideal last-minute Christmas and holiday presents, but scammers have devised a means to cheat you out of your money – and it'll be too late when you eventually find out.
Police are warning consumers not to fall prey to this scam, and have also provided tips to help secure finances on gift cards.
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A woman who was recently affected by the scam and craves anonymity revealed that she and her husband bought gift cards to give friends and family. Only for the people who received them to call back a few days later saying the money on the gift cards had been spent.
"People are buying tons of gift cards now and it never even crossed my mind that something like this would happen," she said.
The process of stealing money off gifts cards varies. However, the general procedure involves the thief taking the cards off the rack, writing the gift cards’ numbers, and scratching off the strips on the back of the cards to retrieve the security codes.
After getting this information, the crooks put replacement strips over the codes then leave the gift cards at the store.
Later, when unsuspecting individuals buy one of those cards and load money onto it, the hacker gets notified with an alert stating how much funds have been loaded into the account.
"And that's what happened in my husband's case.” The victim said.
“He had spent $150 on this one gift card in particular and next thing you know the money was gone within five minutes."
LAPD investigators who deal with internet crimes have warned the public to be careful when buying gift cards and inspect them properly for telltale signs of tampering.
"Make sure you examine the gift card," said Detective Michael Stalnecker.
"A lot of them now are wrapped and sealed in paper, and we recommend people buy those and not the ones that are open."
According to the Retail Gift Card Association, gift card issuers are improving the security features of their cards with better protective packaging and new back-office technology that reports suspicious activity during the purchase and redemption of gift cards.
But these tips can also help you from falling victim of this gift card scam:
1. Buy gift cards directly from known sources and avoid online auction sites
2. Treat gift cards like cash and handle them as you would your wallet
3. Do not buy gift cards from retail stores if the numbers and PINs are easily accessible or you notice evidence of tampering.
4. Change the security code immediately after purchasing the card.
5. If your gift card is lost or stolen, endeavor to report to the issuer directly. In some cases, you might be able to retrieve the funds on it after paying a small fee. Check out other tips here