How to detect and avoid common gift card scams

Gift Scams Exposed

Over $534 billion in gift cards were sold last year. That averages to about $14.6 billion on gift cards every single day. Most people think they are sold mainly during the holiday season, but they are popular all year round. Gift cards a given for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other celebrations throughout the year.

Unfortunately, with this much money on the line, scammers do everything possible to trick and defraud consumers. Below is a list of common gift card scams and how to avoid getting ripped off.

Phishing scams: Scammers send fake emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate company, asking for personal information to redeem a gift card or offer a gift card as a reward for providing personal information. To avoid this common gift card scam, do not click on links or enter personal information in response to unsolicited messages.

Card swapping: Fraudsters tamper with gift card racks at retail stores such as CVS or Rite Aid, swapping out legitimate cards for ones with lower or no value. The most common is adding a label with a barcode over the gift card’s existing barcode—so you're activating another card, not the one being purchased. Inspect gift cards before buying them to circumvent these schemes and ensure they have not been tampered with. Lastly, check the receipt for any inaccuracies.

Unsolicited phone calls: Scammers call and claim to be from a legitimate company, offering a gift card or asking for payment information to redeem one. To dodge these rip-offs, only provide personal information or make payments over the phone if you initiated the call and know the company's legitimacy.

Card pooling: Look out for scammers who ask individuals to contribute money towards bulk purchasing gift cards but then take the money and wait to deliver the cards. To dodge these rip-offs, do not participate in card pooling schemes; only purchase gift cards directly from trusted retailers or legitimate online gift card resellers.

Social media scams: Scammers create fake social media accounts or posts, offering gift cards in exchange for personal information or money. To avoid these scams, only provide personal information or send money to social media accounts if you know they are legitimate.

In-person scams: Scammers approach people in public places, offering gift cards or asking for payment in exchange for a gift card. To elude these cons, only provide personal information or make payments to individuals you know.

Unscrupulous gift card resellers: Scammers may purchase gift cards from legitimate retailers and resell them at a discounted price on online marketplaces. To fend off these frauds, be cautious about buying gift cards from resellers and ensure the card has yet to be previously redeemed.

Card-not-present fraud: Scammers steal gift card numbers and use them to make fraudulent purchases online. Keep certain gift card numbers and PINs to ward off these deceptions, and check the card's balance regularly.

Card-testing: Online scammers use automated tools to test large numbers of gift card numbers and balances to identify the ones that are still active and have a balance. To avoid these scams, monitor your gift card balance regularly and report any suspicious activity or unauthorized transactions to the gift card issuer.

World's First and Only Book Dedicated to Consumer Gift Cards


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