Here’s how the scam works. You receive a gift card as a present from a friend, colleague, or loved one. When you go to use the card, however, the card gets declined. That’s because before the card’s purchase, a scammer took the card off the rack at a retail location, wrote down the card number, and scratched off and recorded the security codes from the back of the card. In some cases, the scammers replace the security strip on the card to hide their tracks.
Once the card is activated, the scammer drains the funds via online purchases. Software makes it easy for scammers to check card balances online, so they know when the card can be used.
Unfortunately, the scam can be compounded when the seller of the gift card refuses to make the victims whole. Some merchants have been known to deny consumers refunds even if the customer is able to provide the receipt and proof of activation for the gift card.
While detecting this scam can be very challenging, there are several steps you can take to proactively protect yourself and your gift recipient:
If you spot someone copying down numbers at a store, report them to security immediately. If you purchase a gift card that’s been compromised or have questions about this and other consumer issues, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/consumer, or call 410-313-6420.