Emily Gaines, Class of 2018, is a Public Relations Coordinator for the Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas.
Holiday shopping doesn’t get any easier than gift cards. Did you get someone you don’t know very well for Secret Santa? Gift card! Are you shopping for a lot of friends on a tight budget? Gift cards for everyone! They’re quick, convenient and allow the receiver to purchase something they’ll love. You can even put as much or as little money on them as you want, making them a great item for any budget. Unfortunately, scammers have gift cards on their holiday wish lists too.
Because they act a lot like cash (can be used anonymously and are extremely difficult to reverse once used), gift cards are one of scammers’ favorite ways to steal your money. They’ll find any excuse or story to get you to send them money via gift card, and make it sound legitimate. Once they’ve convinced you to actually purchase the card, they’ll instruct you to send the gift card number and PIN, which give them immediate access to the money that’s been loaded onto it. Then, the scammer and your money disappear.
Use these tips from your BBB to avoid scams while shopping for gift cards this holiday season:
Buy from trustworthy sources. Avoid purchasing gift cards from second-hand 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. If they have, report it to a store employee.
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 not 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.