Enterprising thieves have found a way to drain gift cards before the recipients even get a chance to use them.
Thieves are noting the unique number on the back of unsold gift cards in the store and then later checking online to see if the card has been activated.
Cards are activated when consumers purchase them.
The thief can then use the gift card on the retailer's Web site.
"It happened to me last year," shopper Serena Coleman said.
Coleman said the gift card under her Christmas tree had been spent before she even unwrapped it.
"I think it's a crook," Coleman said. "They shouldn't even be here. Like my daughter (says), there should only be good people in the world, but it's not."
Many retailers put a scratch-off coating on top of the gift card's code to combat fraud, but thieves are even removing that.
"It looks like you should only buy the cards in the back of the rack," shopper Heather Stubbings said.
The message to consumers? Inspect gifts cards before buying them.
Walmart and Target acknowledged the gift card scam and said their fraud departments would contact NBC 5. NBC 5 did not hear from representatives from either company's fraud department.