Gift cards are often easy to reach at store cash registers or on nearby racks. But that easy access opens the door for an unusual consumer rip-off, according to Bottom Line Personal. The problem: High-tech thieves enter stores and use small electronic scanners to read and lift credit codes from the magnetic strips on gift cards.
With the scanned and stolen information, digital thieves use the gift card data to finance fraudulent online shopping sprees, according to a report from scambusters.org. Meanwhile, unsuspecting gift card recipients are left with worthless plastic. One Wal-Mart shopper, for example, purchased gift cards for her grandchildren. But when the grandkids (eight of them) tried to use the cards for the first time, the family discovered that all of the cards had been drained of value, according to scambusters.org.
The store ultimately offered a refund and through a bit of detective work discovered how thieves had stolen the stored value dollar amounts from the gift cards.
Anti-theft tip: Avoid gift cards that are arranged on easy-access racks. Instead, request a card from the behind-the-counter stash. Save receipts and check in with your gift card recipients to make sure that all is well when they try to use the gift cards.
Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach: How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in the Spring of 2008 by DPL Press.
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