Scam Alert

Keeping Scammers Away From Your Gift Cards

Gift Cards are a popular gift but they are also popular with thieves

NBCUniversal, Inc.

If you are reading this then chances are good you will either purchase or receive a gift card over the holiday.

The National Retail Federation estimates that more than half of Americans will buy gift cards this holiday season and the average shopper will put about $47 on each card. But unfortunately, scammers will also try to get some of that money.

Gift cards can be an easy target for thieves, security expert Jim Stickley said.

"Just go to any grocery store where they have a wall of gift cards," said Stickley. "You can pull off and still scratch right there."

The scam artists are scratching the card to get the pin or security numbers. Once they have the information off the back of the card, they can put it back on the rack and wait for someone to buy the card and put money on it.

"By the time you go to use the card, there are no actual dollars left on the card."

Jim Stickley

"Then they wait a week or two and then dial the number that's on the back of all gift cards to see how much value is left on the card," said Stickley. From there the thieves can burn the information onto their own card and go shopping. "By the time you go to use the card, there are no actual dollars left on the card."

Gift cards are available at many department and grocery stores.

A scam artist can drain the balance and the person with the gift card will not know they have been ripped off until they try to use it. That's why it is important to avoid buying gift cards at locations where the back of the cards are visible. You want to buy cards where pin and security numbers are not visible and can not be tampered with. Many cards are sold inside plastic or paper packaging.

According to Consumer Reports, it is OK to buy gift cards online but only if they are coming directly from the retailer, chain restaurant or other issuers. CR also suggests you do not delay in using the money from the card.

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