Many of us now have gift cards to use after opening presents, however, we have a warning before you go out and spend it.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, $74 million dollars have been lost in gift card and re-loadable card scams in the first three quarters of 2019.
The Better Business Bureau Serving North Central Texas says what they've seen here locally is that the scammers will steal the numbers and pins by tampering with the packages, sometimes in ways that you wouldn't even notice.
"It's pretty amazing how covert they can do it, but yes - they're stealing the numbers off these gift cards under the noses of these retailers that are selling them," said Phylissia Clark, vice president of public relations at the BBB of North Central Texas.
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The other way scammers target gift cards is by using a skimmer to pick up the magnetic information right off the card. Despite advancements in safety and security on the card -- such as scratch off pin numbers and tamper-evident packaging -- the rush of holiday shopping can leave consumers oblivious to problems.
“For every technological advancement that banks or card holders make, there’s another one that the scammers make. They stay ahead of the curve and for as much as we stay ahead, they’ll find a new way around it," Clark said.
So if you got a card for Christmas, first thing you should do is check the packaging. If something looks strange, that could be a red flag.
If the cardboard peel is missing or the scratch off pin is even slightly scratched to expose numbers, you might want to call the card company or the retailer where you bought it. Some of them have systems in place to investigate fraud or freeze the funds.
"And for everybody that gets gift cards, I know people like to hang onto them for a long time but we always advise to spend them immediately and if you’re not going to spend immediately, just research constantly to make sure nothing strange gift cards," Clark said.
If everything checks out find, you should still call the number on the back of the card to activate it and make sure all of the funds are there in case it was skimmed.
"Just like your debit card, you wouldn't want to leave these things laying around where someone would see it. Do you want to protect them and use them quickly, keep them in a safe place," Clark said. "And you want to make sure that they're activated properly the minute you get them. Remember that gift cards are as good as cash and can be stolen just as quickly."