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Gift Cards: Less than You Bargained For?

Gift cards are becoming a new way to skim money from unsuspecting consumers.

Christmas shopping has begun. On a recent expedition, I decided to pick up some gift cards. At the register, the cashier attempted to activate the cards. One card would not activate, and the computer reading that said the card had already been used. While I was not affected, I do believe the store had been the victim of a scam.

A thriving scam involves the use of scanners to read the numbers from the gift cards sold in self-serve areas of stores. The person returns the cards to the store shelf and then monitors them to see when they are activated. Once activated, they will use the card numbers to spend the funds before the intended recipient. Whenever possible, purchase your card from behind the counter of a retailer or sealed packages. Retailers should move cards to a monitored area.

The FBI warns consumers to be wary of gift cards being sold on auction or classified advertisement websites where the price is significantly lower than any sales price in retail outlets. Also, gift card offers on social media sites claiming to be from major retailers.

Investigation Discovery (Discovery Channel) lists 10 holiday scams to watch for.

  1. Lecherous holiday lenders
  2. Holiday grab and dash
  3. Holiday “help” wanted
  4. Holiday hackers
  5. Fake charity
  6. Holiday "It" gift deceptions
  7. Gift cards with nothing to give
  8. Foreign lottery scams
  9. Evil e-cards
  10. Dangerous holiday downloads

McAfee list these online scams.

  1. Social Media Scams
  2. Malicious Mobile Apps
  3. Travel Scams
  4. Fake Brands
  5. Apple Scams
  6. Skype Message Scare
  7. Bogus Gift Cards
  8. Holiday SMiShing
  9. Phony E-Tailers
  10. Fake Charities
  11. Dangerous E-cards
  12. Phony Classifieds

There are plenty of criminals plotting ingenious ways to take our money. Be on guard and aware. If you haven’t heard of the company or charity, ignore it or do thorough research before getting involved. Don’t assume it’s legitimate because there are a lot of positive internet reviews.

If it’s too good to be true…

www.mazzellainvestigations.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John December 04, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Here's another hint for those who are worried about having their credit card information stolen when shopping online: Get a debit card only to be used for online purchases. It must be a debit, not credit card and it has to be attached to a personal checking, not business. Do not opt in to the overdraft protection. This means if there's $10 available on card and someone tried to run it for $11, it's decline. Just transfer money onto the card to make your purchase, then make sure the balance is very low. Done. Now you're safe. Just in case anyone steals your information online you don't lose a dime. Yeah, I know you have credit card fraud protection, but that's a nightmare.
Greg Mazzella December 06, 2012 at 11:06 PM
AG Gansler warns consumers about retail text message scam phony promise of large gift card is attempt to get user's personal information http://www.oag.state.md.us/Press/2012/120512.html

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