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Gift Card Scam / Theft

Crime Prevention, Scam, Theft

There is a way the "Bad Guys" are scamming us on gift cards, even before we purchase them. How are they doing that? Well, some stores elect to have their gift cards on racks or hooks where you just pull them off and have the cashier charge them up with an amount. In stores like that the "Bad Guys" are writing down serial numbers off of the cards on the rack and they can later retrieve a balance by using the store's customer service telephone number. And to make matters worse, they can use the gift card online just by having that serial number they copied earlier and a known balance provided by the store.

 Here is a scenario:

On Monday Bad Billy goes to a national department store chain we will call Alfred's. At Alfred's their gift cards are on display for purchase and Bad Billy copies down 12 serial numbers. Mr. and Mrs. Dons decide to purchase 4 gift cards for their nieces and nephews who live in another part of the country. The Dons' charge each card up with $50.00 value and stick the gift cards inside Christmas cards and send them off via the US Postal Service.

 On Tuesday Bad Billy calls Alfred's customer service telephone number and asks what the balance is on gift card A0012 and finds it to be $50.00. On Wednesday and the following days Bad Billy calls about one card each day. The bad news is, even before the Dons' nieces and nephews open their cards, Bad Billy has already gone to the Alfred's web site and redeemed the gift cards for things he wants. Bad Billy will often have those items shipped to a friend's house or even a house he knows that is vacant or even the Jone's house. Why the Jones house? well there is no one home during the day and he can drive by and get the boxes off the Jones deck before anyone gets home.

 Okay, so how to we protect ourselves against this type of scam? Easy really, purchase your gift card from a store that keeps their gift cards behind the register or customer service counter. If the store you want to purchase a card from only keeps them in the open, insist they get one out of the back storage room. But buyers beware, because Bad Billy's sister Bad Belinda might be an employee of that store and she may write down the serial numbers before selling them to you. It might be a good idea to check the store's policy on refunds or procedures on how they protect their gift cards.

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