BBB Warns of Gift Card Scam - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/28/06

BBB Warns of Gift Card Scam

You see gift cards all over nowadays. The problem is, crooks see them too and have found a way to use them to get your money.

Just when you thought thieves would run out of ways to scam you, think again. Now, they have set their sights on gift cards, swiping the information, and checking the balance.

Susan Smith works for Barnes and Noble bookstore at Oglethorpe Mall, where gift cards are near the top of the list during the giving season. She's afraid gift cards are also popular with thieves.

"They are very popular," Susan said. "But people are always coming up with new ways to get your money."

"If anyone gets their hands on a gift card, they can use it," Better Business Bureau president Ross Howard told WTOC.

Howard says crooks have already figured out a gift card scam. Here's how it works. A thief goes into a store, hunts down the gift card racks, and writes down numbers from the backs of the cards. They wait a few days and call an 800 number to see if the card has been activated. When they find one, the con artist heads over to the store's website and starts shopping.

"They start buying things with your gift card," Howard said.

Howard warns stores who carry cards with visible numbers to keep them behind the counter.

"Put it back under lock and key," Howard said. "If someone can write those numbers down, they will turn around and use that card when it is activated and use those numbers."

"I would be very careful with inventory of gift cards," Susan said.

Susan says some stores, like Barnes and Noble, use cards which are discrete. Those who don't need to be careful.

"A gift card is like money," Susan said. "Because you can use it on anything in the store, you don't want to let it out of your sight because anyone can use it."

Anyone.

What you need to do is if you are buying a gift card, inspect it first, and make sure protective stickers aren't pulled off. Some have scratch-off codes in the back. Make sure they're not scratched off. If they look like they were tampered with, report it to the store.

If you already have a gift card, call the number on the back and check the balance.

And most of all: be aware.

 Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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