Gift Card Safety
Gift cards are both highly requested and convenient for holiday shoppers. Some retailers offer gift cards digitally, removing the physical card. Unfortunately, with all the positives, gift cards create an ideal opportunity for scammers. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office wants to help you spot and avoid potential gift card scams this holiday season.
Carefully inspect gift cards before you purchase a balance on them. A scam often starts before a card is activated. Gift cards stored near the register and under security camera coverage are less likely with which to be tampered. Carefully review cards and packaging for signs of tampering or exposure. Scammers can take a photo or write down card numbers and check the balance later, searching for cards with an activated amount. If the PIN is exposed on a gift card, notify a store representative and choose an untampered card on which to load funds. Be mindful of replacement stickers that may cover security codes, look for scratches to the card beyond the security strip.
Buy gift cards directly from the retailer and online purchases are best. Direct purchases require fewer transfers of funds resulting in more stringent security. Online retailers mail the gift card directly to you, preventing any access to the purchase codes and PIN. In addition, your receipt from the retailer for the gift card has a direct verification to validate your purchase. As a bonus, stores sometimes offer incentives when you purchase a specific amount. Never buy gift cards from an auction or community website. Resale sites are often a traffic source for stolen, fraudulent or already used gift cards.
Save receipts after the purchase of a gift card. Consider taking a photo of your receipt. You can email that photo to yourself for record-keeping if you fear you may lose the receipt. If you fall victim to a scam, your receipt can validate the original ownership and value of the gift card. In addition, the company’s direct purchase of a gift card offers enhanced transaction information such as purchase location, activation and any use of the gift card.
If you receive a gift card, treat it like you would a debit card. Using a gift card quickly helps eliminate potential threats. Change the security code as quickly as possible to something unique only you will know. Check the company’s website to see if you can create an account. This feature can help protect your credit value as well as the risk of misplacement or theft. If available, register your gift card online with the company. Some large retailers realize the potential lost or stolen gift card and the opportunity to combine the balance of several cards onto one. At the same time, when you register your gift card, check for the availability to report a scam online through the retailer. Online fraud reporting will avoid a long wait on the phone to speak with the fraud department and easily save confirmation or claim numbers.
Taking a bit of extra caution with your gift cards this holiday season will help prevent gift card scams. Follow Pasco Sheriff’s Office social media pages for the latest updates and safety information. PSO wishes you a safe and happy holiday season!