Gift cards are a popular purchase during the holidays. They’re convenient and easy for gift-givers and allows gift-receivers to pick the perfect items from their favorite stores. However, scammers love gift cards just as much as shoppers do. Gift cards act a lot like cash; they can be used anonymously and are extremely difficult to reverse once used.
Scammers can find a multitude of excuses and stories to get you to send them money via gift card, but the common theme is that they need you to send them money urgently. Once they’ve convinced you to purchase the gift card, they need the gift card number and PIN. Those numbers give the scammer immediate access to the money that’s been loaded onto the card. Then, they disappear.
Use these tips from your Better Business Bureau when purchasing gift cards to avoid scams:
- Buy from trustworthy sources. Avoid purchasing gift cards from secondhand sources, like online marketplaces, because they could be counterfeit or stolen.
- Inspect the card before buying. Check that none of the protective stickers have been removed or scratched off and that the PIN is not exposed. Report any damaged gift cards you find to the store selling them.
- Keep the receipt with the gift card. Whether you’re giving or receiving the gift card, try to keep the original receipt with the card. If you don’t have the receipt, take note of the card’s ID number and make sure you know where to find it in the future.
- Read the terms and conditions. Look for an expiration date and activation fees. Will the card stop working if it goes unused for a certain amount of time?
- Use the card as soon as possible. Using gift cards early will help you avoid losing them or having the money stolen remotely by someone who might have gotten ahold of the gift card number and PIN.
- Treat gift cards like cash. If your card is lost or stolen, you can report it to the gift card’s issuer. You might get back the money that was left on the card, or they may give you back part of it. Look on the card or the issuer’s official website for their customer service number.
For more tips on avoiding gift card scams, visit us at bbb.org.