Gift card scams don’t happen that often and the damage is generally limited to the value of a gift card, but it is a situation that we all want to avoid. To protect yourself or the recipient, use following the tips below.
For gift card buyers:
- Purchase gift cards from trusted companies. It’s best to buy directly from retailers. Purchasing gift cards secondhand at a discount might be tempting, but not all resellers are reliable. If you buy from a reseller, pick one that is backed by a reputable company, offers a money-back guarantee and has a customer service department.
- Inspect the card before you buy it. If you purchase a gift card in person, make sure the packaging hasn’t been tampered with and do not buy it if the PIN is exposed.
- Hang onto your receipt. This verifies ownership in case something goes wrong. If you’re worried about losing it, take a picture.
For gift card recipients:
- Register your gift card. This can help you and customer service easily identify the card and monitor its activity.
- Keep it in a safe place. Treat the gift card like cash, put it in your wallet next to the cards you use most often.
- Use it quickly. Many cards don’t expire, but the longer they sit, the more vulnerable they become to theft or you are likely to forget about them.
- Be careful where you shop. Don’t use gift cards anywhere a seller demands them as payment.
Scams to watch out for:
- Thieves take gift cards from store displays, write the numbers down and put the cards back. They wait for others to purchase the cards and then use the balances themselves.
- Sellers list counterfeit or stolen cards on auction websites or community marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist.
- Shoppers go to make a purchase online or over the phone and the seller only accepts Amazon, iTunes or other gift cards as payment.
- Advertisements, calls, texts or emails claim you’ve won a free gift card.
- Someone reaches out to you pretending to be from the IRS or a utility company and demands you pay a fine or bill with a gift card.
What to do if you fall victim:
If you lose the gift card or think it’s been compromised, immediately alert the issuer. File a complaint with the FTC. You can do this online at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 877-FTC-HELP.