Learning Center Blog

Avoiding Holiday Shopping Scams: Gift Cards

We all know gift cards as a simple and convenient way to give a gift – you can find them at most big name stores and there is something for everyone. Gift cards are great because they’re like cash, so the recipient can buy anything they want. Unfortunately, they are also a common tool that scammers use to steal money from people. You may have heard of gift card scams involving scammers asking for money or payment through gift cards, but you can also be scammed while purchasing gift cards to give as a gift.

On the rack

In one type of scam, the scammer goes to a store and writes down or scans the numbers of gift cards that have not yet been sold. They keep these numbers and repeatedly check the card’s associated website or phone number until there is a balance on the card. Once the scammer knows there is money to be spent, they create a duplicate plastic card that can be used in stores, or use the card information to make a purchase online. When the recipient of your gift card tries to purchase something, the gift card will be empty.

Another type of “on the rack” scam involves the scammer concealing a card’s barcode with the barcode for a card that belongs to the scammer. When the cashier activates the card, the funds will actually go directly to the scammer’s card.

At checkout

Other times, the cashier will be involved in the scam. While you are not looking, the cashier will activate one gift card using your money and then switch it with an inactive card. They keep the active card for themselves and give you the inactive one. By the time your recipient notices the card has never been activated, it is too late.

To avoid these gift card scams:

  • Buy gift cards in the middle or back of the rack, not on the front
  • Purchasing gift cards online minimizes the chance that someone has already scanned the number
  • Some manufacturers put packaging around gift cards – be wary of damaged packaging
  • Look for stickers covering the barcode on the card before you purchase
  • Keep an eye on the card the entire time you are purchasing to avoid possible tampering by the cashier
  • Make sure that the card number on your receipt and the number on the gift card match after purchasing
  • Buy VISA gift cards from your financial institution instead of a retail store. At financial institutions, gift cards are likely stored in a locked box, out of reach of anyone other than trusted staff.

VISA Gift Cards at Patriot Federal Credit Union

Patriot can help you stay safe this holiday shopping season when you purchase prepaid VISA gift cards from any of our branches. These gift cards are available in amounts from $10 to $1,000 each and can be used to make purchases online, by phone, or in person, anywhere VISA is accepted. Stop by any of our branches to learn more or to purchase today!