Protect yourself from the latest scam, gift card draining

The holidays are here! Don’t fall victim to the latest gift card scam

ROANOKE, Va. – We all have that one person who is hard to shop for during the holiday season. While it might seem like a good idea to buy a gift card for them, you might want to think twice since there’s a new scam going around called gift card draining.

“We’ve all seen all kinds of gift card scams. This one seems more sophisticated,” said President of the Better Business Bureau, Julie Wheeler who serves western Virginia.

You might be asking what is gift card draining. It involves the thieves copying details from a card in-store or even cutting off the barcode. Then after you buy the card and load the funds, the scammer has that money instead or “draining the card.”

Wheeler also said it can involve thieves making their own stickers of the barcodes and putting them on other cards in the store.

“Crooks are buying a valid gift card with $25 or so and then they are making stickers of that barcode with that valid number on it and putting it on other cards in the store. So, you go in and you buy a card and you put money on what you think is a valid gift card but it actually is loading to the card that someone else has,” said Wheeler.

Simone Payne who is shopping last minute is in shock at the new scam.

“I didn’t even know that that was even a thing. I didn’t know that people could do that,” said Payne.

“Luckily I’ve never been a victim to that,” said Dylan Haman, who frequently purchases gift cards for loved ones during the holiday season.

To avoid being a victim of a scam, Wheeler said don’t take the first one in the pile, buy directly from the retailer, and physically examine the card.

“Feel and make sure you have a full-size card in the cardboard case, and I would also suggest that you don’t buy cards that have the actual card number displayed that aren’t in some sort of packaging or that by chance even have the pin displayed,” said Wheeler.

The Better Business Bureau also suggested making sure there are no wrinkles or rips in the card packaging and checking that there are no stickers on the barcodes. You can do that by running your finger along the back of the card.

Another important tip is to register the card.

However, if you do find yourself a victim of this scam, contact the retailer.

“Sometimes they can block the cards or figure out what happened to them,” said Wheeler.

About the Author

Keshia Lynn is a Multimedia Journalist for WSLS. She was born and raised in Maryland and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law and Society from American University and a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

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