NBC 5 Responds

How to Guard Your Gift Cards Against Fraud

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Right about now, some of you are working to spend the gift cards you received over the holidays. One North Texas consumer said his brand-new gift cards were unusable.

Read on for what consumers should watch for when using or buying gift cards.


With two new prepaid Visa gift cards in hand, Chris Siconolfi said he saw a warning while trying to register the cards.

“I hadn't even opened up the package and there's like big exclamation points, fraudulent, call the number,” Siconolfi recalled.

He said he learned the $300 he’d loaded onto each card was safe, but he couldn’t use the cards.

Siconolfi said he took them back to the Kroger store where he bought them. A manager exchanged them for new gift cards.

“Those cards, when I registered from her desk, same thing,” Siconolfi said.

Kroger said it can’t confirm if the new cards were unusable. In an email to NBC 5 Responds, Kroger wrote, in part, “We are currently working closely with US Bank; rigorously researching the matter to fully understand the point of compromise.”

Kroger refunded Siconolfi’s money and shared a link with tips to help consumers avoid and report suspected fraud.

U.S. Bank, which issued the cards Siconolfi bought, told NBC 5 Responds, “Unfortunately fraud can occur on any type of payment card including gift cards.  If a customer is experiencing issues with their prepaid gift card, they are encouraged to call the number on the back of the card to speak with our Prepaid Customer Support Team.” 

We also checked with Visa, which licensed the cards. It said consumers must always contact the issuer or card program manager using the number on the back of the gift card.

Visa also wrote, in part, “Visa offers Visa Zero Liability protection to cardholders if the card is registered, but the cardholder still needs to go through their issuer/program manager to manage that dispute.”


“What sounds like may have happened in this case is somewhere in the chain between the time that the card was created and when this gentleman loaded funds onto the card, the number on the back of the card was compromised,” said John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud at the National Consumers League and Director of Fraud.org.  

Breyault said the compromise can happen through a number of low or high-tech methods.

“However the number gets compromised, what tends to happen is that scammers will maintain a list of those numbers that are compromised and monitor them,” explained Breyault.

They’re waiting for money to be loaded onto the cards. Breyault said if the cards Siconolfi bought were getting a lot of balance checks, it may have prompted the fraud message.

“The gift card company had probably noticed a lot of pings on that card number,” Breyault said.


  • Before you buy a gift card, check the packaging for rips, scratches or signs of tampering. They may be subtle.
  • Make sure the card number on the receipt matches the actual card.
  • Hold onto that receipt.
  • If you notice a problem, call the number on the back of the card immediately.
  • For gift cards you receive, use them. Don’t let them sit in your wallet.

“That just gives more time to scammers who may have compromised the number to drain the funds off of the card,” Breyault explained.

You can read more from the Federal Trade Commission on buying and using gift cards here.

Report suspected scams to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and the Office of the Texas Attorney General here.

If you lost money, the FTC recommends filing a report with your local police department. A police report may help you when you report a disputed transaction with the card issuer.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.

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