Gift cards are a popular way to collect extra miles and points through credit card spend. Many people also use them as gifts this time of year. Gift card spending is expected to reach $27.6 billion this holiday season, with gift card purchasers planning to buy an average of four cards, worth roughly $45 each. But, gift cards are also a popular way for scammers to make an easy buck.
Gift cards are a popular item to give during the holidays, and scammers know this. They use multiple tactics to steal money off of gift cards, and it’s hard to figure it out, until you go to use your card and see that there’s nothing left in it.
How to Protect Yourself
Better Business Bureau offers up the following tips when purchasing a gift card this season:
- Examine your gift card before purchasing it. Make sure the PIN number isn’t exposed, or the packaging hasn’t been tampered with. Packaging could be ripped up, PIN could be scratched, or the tape that covers it could have been removed and placed back. If it doesn’t look right, just grab another. Scammers sometimes record the number and PIN on a gift card, put it back in the rack, and wait until it is activated to use the balance.
- Register you gift card online if possible. Some cards let you do this, and you can add your name, address and maybe change the PIN as well. Once you do this, it’s easier to use the card online, but also to keep track of the balance and transactions.
- Be careful when checking balance online. BBB has received a report on BBB Scam Tracker about a site that claims to help you check the balance on your gift card, but in reality the site steals your balance. If you need to check a gift card balance, go to the site listed on the back of the card itself or, if there is none, go to the website of the company and look for a link to the gift card page. You can also call to check balance.
- Do your research. Gift cards often has fees such as activation fee,
inactivity fee replacement fee and more. Make sure you’re familiar with these fees and also note the expiration date on your card, so you don’t lose the balance. If you’re buying gift cards online from resellers, make sure to ready about their warranty.