Gift cards are a quick and convenient gift giving solution. Whether you’re pressed for time or the recipient is hard to shop for, a gift card is sure to make the perfect gift.
According to the National Retail Federation, gift card spending is expected to reach $27.6 billion this holiday season, with gift card purchasers planning to buy an average of four cards, worth roughly $45 each. According to the survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 59 percent of survey respondents said they will be purchasing gift cards for their loved ones, while 61 percent of respondents will be asking for a gift card as a gift this year.
Women are more likely than men to purchase a gift card for their loved ones with 57 percent of men and 62 percent of women planning on buying a gift card.
Gift cards are a notoriously popular item to give during the holidays, and scammers know this. Scammers use multiple tactics to steal money off of gift cards without the card holder even knowing.
Better Business Bureau offers up the following tips when purchasing a gift card this season.
Examine the gift card
Before purchasing a gift card, be sure to give it a thorough look to make sure the PIN number isn’t exposed, or the packaging hasn’t been tampered with. If anything looks suspicious it’s best to grab a new one.
Scammers are known to remove gift cards from the store rack and record the numbers associated with that card. They put the card back on the rack and wait until a customer purchases it. Once the customer buys the card, the scammer uses the number online and wipes the gift card clean before the customer even has a chance to use it.
Scammers are impatient and will usually put the gift card toward the front of the rack, so it’s best to grab a card from the back.
Do your research
It’s best to double check the terms and conditions, the expiration date or any fees tied to the gift card before you decide to purchase one. Some stores charge service or setup fees, or limit the gift card to in store only, meaning you can’t use it online. Some states have laws relevant to gift cards; you can check with the office of the Attorney General in your state for more information.
Register your gift card
If the retailer allows the option to register your gift card, take full advantage. Registering your gift card makes it easier to keep track of any misuse occurring, that way you can report it sooner and potentially end up saving the money that is stored.
Treat it like cash
If you lose your gift card or someone steals it, it’s best to report it to the issuer immediately. Some issuers may not allow you to recover any of the funds, and some will, but for a fee.
You may need to show proof of purchase and the ID number on the card.
Be Cautious When Checking Balances
BBB has received a report on BBB Scam Tracker about a site that claims to help you check the balance on your gift card, but in reality the site steals your balance. If you need to check a gift card balance, go to the site listed on the back of the card itself or, if there is none, go to the website of the company and look for a link to the gift card page.
Use caution when buying from a third party
If you purchase a gift card at an auction or on a third party website you may end up with a gift card that has no value, is expired, or was fraudulently obtained.
The seller could sell you a gift card that does indeed have the actual balance on it, but steal the numbers and start wiping the gift card clean after you receive it.
Don’t pay using a gift card
No reputable company would ask for payment via a gift card. If you receive a call demanding you must pay using a gift card, just hang up. Scammers use scare tactics by threatening you with jail time unless you pay them immediately with a gift card. These scare tactics are nothing but just a tactic to get your hard earned money.
Consider the financial condition of the retailer
If you purchase a gift card from a company that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business, the card may be worth less than you had anticipated.
If you feel like the company is on shaky ground, it may be best to purchase a gift card from another retailer instead.
Keep your information private
No reputable business would ever ask you for personal information when purchasing a gift card. If they do, take that as a big red flag and purchase one elsewhere.
Use caution when selling online
If you decide to place your gift card online, use caution. Usually the buyer will ask to three-way the merchant to verify the card is active and has a remaining balance. While listening, the buyer records the touch tone numbers entered to intercept the gift card number, and then they use the gift card without even paying for it.
If someone asks to listen to your balance inquiry, or wants to look over your shoulder while you enter the numbers, it is most likely a scam.
Following these tips will ensure that you or your loved ones don’t get scammed out of their gift cards this year.