Gift Card Scam

Crooks are taking down the card numbers of gift cards in retail stores!

Well… the crooks have found a way to rob you of your gift card balance. If you buy Gift Cards from a display rack that has various store cards you may become a victim of theft. Crooks are now jotting down the card numbers in the store and then wait a few days and call to see how much of a balance THEY have on the card. Once they find the card is "activated", and then they go online and start shopping. You may want to purchase your card from a customer service person, where they do not have the Gift Cards viewable to the public.

The story is true and the procedure has been used by crooks, but it’s not clear how widespread it is.  So far the warning seems to be larger than the problem.

One of the alerts was sent by the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, which confirmed with that the story is true.

Here are the facts:

Gift cards are frequently found displayed for sale in retail stores, but they are useless until they are purchased and activated.  The activation also determines how much money is on the card.

Thieves are copying down the numbers on the unsold cards.  Some of them, for example, may grab a handful of from a display, go into a restroom to copy the information from them, then return them.   Some cards have personal identification (PIN) numbers on them but they are hidden under a scratch-off covering.  Some of the thieves go ahead and scratch that off so they can have the PIN numbers as well and unless you are aware of that, you may not notice that the PIN number was once concealed.

Later when the cards have been purchased and activated, the thieves will use the cards, typically for purchases online.

So, there is the danger that a gift card that you purchased may end up being worthless because the money will be gone before you spend it.

It is recommended that you get a gift card from an employee behind a counter rather than use the ones that are displayed for all to see.


If you pass this on to others, you could possibly save someone from a loss. Please use the ‘SHARE’ button (lower left) to email to friends, or share this message with your ‘social network.’ Thank you!

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