Refresher course on the scam: Bad people will get the numbers off cards while they are still in stores. Sometimes this means scratching off the area on the back of the card to reveal the code. It could also mean peeking down the sleeve of the card to read and record the number. All this is done with the hope that no one — the buyer or the seller — will realize the card has been compromised.
Then, right after the holiday starts, the scammers begin checking online and by phone to see if these cards have been activated — or they’ll just activate the cards themselves if they have all the info — and proceed to drain all the value from the card.
CBS2 in Los Angeles says it already received a number of complaints from shoppers — specifically Macy’s shoppers — nationwide who have tried to use their cards only to find they are worthless.
“It was $100 and the clerk just said, ‘I’m sorry, there’s no money on this card,’ and I was just shocked, because I had been saving it special to buy something,” says one such cardholder. “I said, ‘That’s impossible,’ because I had not even used it, it had not even left the little sleeve thing that it comes in, and the number wasn’t scratched off or anything.”
Macy’s, which admits it had a problem in recent years with cards sold at third-party stores, did issue the customer a new card for the full amount.
“As with other types of cards, gift cards are not immune to exposure to fraud and theft,” explains the retailer. “The gift card owner should monitor the balance of the card regularly to ensure its value. If an owner would suspect a problem, immediately call the phone number on the card to report any concerns.”
A Different Type of Scam
There are other ways that scammers can rob your gift card blind.
For example, WFTV in Orlando has the tale of a college student who received a $150 Target gift card but decided she would rather have the cash. So she put it up for sale on Craigslist and soon received an offer from someone willing to pay her around $100.
Thing is, the buyer wanted to verify the amount on the card before making the purchase. So they set up a three-way call with Target’s automated system. She felt comfortable doing this because she could enter the card number and code via her keypad without having to say the numbers.
And yet, a few hours later — after the buyer failed to show with the cash — she checked again and found that her account had been drained.
It appears that the scammer recorded the call, made note of the tones for each button push and translated that information into the actual numbers. With that data in hand, he was able to spend freely.
Unfortunately, unlike the Macy’s cards, Target says that this is the customer’s error and she’ll need to deal with the police in order to get her money back.