Is it safe to buy gift cards for the holidays?

Is it safe to buy gift cards for the holidays?

By Greg Collier

On this blog, we talk about gift cards a lot. That’s because they’re used by a multitude of scammers as an untraceable form of payment. As a matter of fact, the Federal Trade Commission recently released a report that stated at least 40,000 people lost a total of $148 million to scams that involved gift cards. Typically, these are scams that are demanding some kind of payment that supposed to prevent some kind of distress to the victim. Keep in mind that no company or agency accepts gift cards as payment unless it’s the retailer they’re intended for. You can’t pay bail with gift cards. You can’t pay your bills with gift cards. You can’t pay your taxes with gift cards. If someone is demanding that you pay them with gift cards, they are more than likely a scammer. As we are fond of saying, gift cards are the currency of scammers. But what if you wanted to buy gift cards for their intended purpose. Do you still have to worry about scams? Unfortunately, you do.

For example, if you’re in the store looking at gift cards, make sure that the number on the back of the card isn’t already exposed. That could mean that the gift card was already purchased and out back on the shelf. Scammers will do this and wait for someone to re-purchase the card. When someone does buy the card, the scammers will quickly drain the card of the money that was added to it. Another version of this scam is when the scammers will scratch off the back to reveal the card number, then place a sticker over it waiting for someone to buy the card. In that case, compare the card with other cards on the rack to make sure the card hasn’t been tampered with.

You may also want to avoid so-called gift card exchanges. This is where scammers will post on social media that they have a gift card for one retailer but want to trade it with someone who has a gift card for another retailer. However, after the trade is made, the victim finds out that the git card they received has little to no funds available on it.

While gift cards are incredibly convenient for gift giving and receiving, there are many pitfalls you need to look out for, so you don’t have a complicated Christmas.