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Gift Card Safety Tips

December 23, 2019

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 or by calling 877-FTC-HELP.