Thieves have come to love the accessibility and convenience of gift cards just as much as harried shoppers.
Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is warning of a scam that stems from the wide array of gift cards many retailers – from super markets to convenience stores – display at their check out lines. For the experienced thief, these displays make for easy spoils.
Here’s how it works: A thief goes into a store, hunts down the gift card racks, and writes down numbers from the backs of the cards. They wait a few days and call the 800 number listed on the card to see if it has been activated. When they find one that is, the con artist heads over to the store’s website and starts shopping.
What’s a consumer to do?
- Ask the clerk for a card from behind the counter or buy it from the customer service desk.
- Don’t solely rely on getting your card from inaccessible stock as protection. Examine both sides of the card yourself; look for signs of tampering: make sure protective stickers aren’t pulled off or the card’s scratch off pin number isn’t exposed. If you suspect tampering, give it back to the clerk.
- Immediately after purchasing the card ask the cashier to scan it to ensure that it’s valid and holds the purchased value. This protects you against another variation of this scam in which the con swaps a valid card for his/her zero-balance card.
- Keep your receipt as proof of purchase for as long as you or your recipient has value stored on the card. Not all retailers will issue you a replacement, but some may. Be sure to ask about the replacement policy before you purchase the card.
- If you already have a gift card, call the number on the back and check the balance. If you find you’re a victim, report it to the retailer.
- Some stores give you the option of registering your gift card at their website. This allows you to check the card’s balance online and catch any misuse of the card before your balance has dwindled to nothing.
For more information contact the BBB of Southern Arizona at www.tucson.bbb.org, 520-888-5353 or 800-696-2828 outside the Tucson Metro area.