Avoiding gift cards scams

There are several traps that target people selling gift cards.

  1. In one scam, fraudsters pay you for a card (or the code on the card), but then dispute or cancel the charge after they have already used the gift card.
  2. In another, they ask you to buy a bunch of gift cards in exchange for an item on an auction site—and then never actually send you the purchase.

To avoid becoming a victim, take several precautions when you use gift card websites.

  • Check reviews of any website you use.
  • Always review gift card balances before and after purchasing the card.
  • If you are selling a gift card, don’t ever give out the card’s PIN until your payment transaction is complete.
  • Be wary of auction sites selling gift cards at a discount or in bulk.
  • If you are buying a gift card in a store, examine the protective scratch-off area on the back of the card for evidence of tampering.
  • Beware of social media postings offering vouchers or gift cards: Fraudulent messages can sometimes appear to have been shared by a friend when they really come from a scam artist.

You can protect yourself from gift card fraud by following a few simple precautions.

  • Don't buy gift cards displayed prominently within the store.  Ask sales clerks to sell you cards from the back room or behind the customer service desk.
  • Examine cards and packaging for signs of tampering.  Don't buy a card where the coating covering the PIN number has been scratched away or the activation sticker isn't firmly affixed.
  • Spend the gift card as soon as possible. Don't put the card in a drawer for months. The longer consumers take to spend their gift cards, the more time thieves have to do it for them.
  • Beware of online exchanges and auction sites.  Online buy cards from reputable online exchanges or auction sites because of the possibility of buying stolen cards.