Beware of Gift Card Thieves, FTC Warns

NBCUniversal, Inc.

With Christmas just around the corner, you may be thinking about gift cards. While they’re popular and convenient, they’re also a popular way for thieves to steal your money.

That’s because gift cards are like cash.  If you buy one and use it, you might not get your money back.  The Federal Trade Commission said one thing consumers shouldn’t do is use gift cards for payments.

Amid the holiday madness, some shoppers we spoke with said gift cards can make for easy presents. 

“They can spend it the way they like,” said Francine Carlson.

“If I know what they want great.  If not, then gift card it is,” said Hannah Carlson.

Cristina Miranda with the Division of Consumer and Business Education at the FTC warned consumers that cybercriminals have their eyes on gift cards too. 

“When you buy a gift card, you first have to inspect the gift card that you’ve purchased to make sure that there have been no numbers that have been scratched off or that has been damaged,” said Miranda.

Consumers should report those cards to the retailer right away. 

“We also want you to keep the receipt of the gift card in case you run into any problems what so ever,” said Miranda.

If consumers buy a gift card online, “check to make sure those are sources that you know and trust because if you go buy a gift card at an auction site, you risk buying a gift card that is stolen or that is fraudulent,” said Miranda.

Always read the terms and conditions of gift cards.  And lastly, never use gift cards for over the phone payments. 

“We’ve had many, many people walk into CVS or Walgreen’s with a scammer on the phone and the scammer is coaching them through the process of buying a gift card and telling to scratch off the numbers of the gift card after they’ve put money on them,” said Miranda.

The FTC said this includes calls from people claiming to be a family member with an emergency, calls from the IRS and Social Security and Utility companies.  It’s important during the holiday season for consumers to watch their wallets, shop wisely, and protect your personal information

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