INTERVIEW: Scammers target gift cards ahead of holidays

Listen to KID NewsRadio’s full interview with Jeremy Johnson from the BBB

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — For many shoppers, a gift card can be the perfect solution to the question, “What do I get for my friends or family for Christmas?”

But, the Better Business Bureau says scammers are now targeting gift cards leaving many eager recipients with empty balances before they even head to the store after Christmas. With consumers expected to spend an estimated $27 million on gift cards this holiday season, experts are warning people to make sure the gift card they plan to give isn’t touched by scammers.

“People are going in and they’re actually tampering with the gift cards in the store,” Jeremy Johnson, Marketplace Manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific Regions, told KID NewsRadio. “Sometimes, you can look through and they can see a pin number or the actual number and then they can get that information. So, technically you could be purchasing a gift card that is empty or the minute that you register that gift card that lets them know it’s been registered and then they can empty it before you even have a chance to spend it or the person that you gave it to, has the chance to spend it.”

The scam shouldn’t stop people from adding a gift card or two to their giving list this year though, Johnson said. Following some simple tips can ensure loved ones are giving gift cards with a full balance instead of unknowingly handing the money to a scammer.

“When you are looking at buying a gift card in a store, take a minute to look at it, make sure that it hasn’t been tampered with,” Johnson said. “Maybe something hasn’t been bent up so someone’s trying to see a number or look and see if there is numbers that could be seen.”

Not every gift card is at risk where packaging hides crucial information, and not every store’s authentication and verification methods are the same, Johnson said. But, it’s still good to inspect the gift card before purchase and even inform the store if something looks suspicious.

“I know each store has different verification ways or activating ways that they can activate gift cards,” Johnson said. “Just making sure that, you know, they’re doing everything they can to keep those cards secure before you buy them.”