What to Know Before You Buy Gift Cards

Gift cards have increased in popularity over the years, but so have efforts to steal the money you deposit on the cards.

Police departments across the country have received reports of consumers buying cards, only to find out they were empty when the recipients went to use them.

The vulnerability lies with the "card number" on the back of the gift card, this is used to help you buy things online, or to help the merchant if the magnetic strip doesn't work.

It's believed people are taking photos of the card number when it's sitting on store shelves, before it's activated and then putting the card pack.

Later a consumer picks up the card, deposits money on it, and activates the card.

At home the thief is constantly checking the card number waiting for a deposit, and when it's made, the thief begins shopping online long before you have a chance to wrap the card and gift it to a friend or loved one.

Some merchants have taken steps to protect card numbers, like putting a sticker over them, but thieves are often peeling back the sticker, reading the number and putting it right back on the cards.

Other merchants use packaging that hides the numbers, but some of that packaging can easily be bent to allow the number to be seen.

NBC 5 Responds Consumer Investigator Wayne Carter suggests buying card that are in multi-packs that are completely sealed where numbers aren't visible in anyway without breaking open the packet.

The sealed packaging could ensure the money you spend actually makes it to the recipient you intended.

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