Gift cards have become commonplace in recent years for people of all ages, so it’s not surprising scammers have found a way to exploit them. About 2/3 of consumers have given or received a gift card, but a recent AARP survey reveals that 1/5 of them do not work. In fact, it’s increasingly common for consumers to file complaints — $148 million in the first nine months of 2021, which was more than all of 2020.
The scammers will often reach out via phone and request payment of a bogus debt using a gift card for Target, iTunes, Walmart, and other popular retailers instead of a check or credit card. Once a scammer gets the PIN on the card “for payment,” they clean it out.
Also happening in stores
Scammers are also at stores trying other scams like secretly scratching off the film strip on the back of the card to get the PIN. They then cover it with a replacement sticker or leave it uncovered and carefully repackage the card. They then check the store’s website to determine if someone bought the card and added money to it. The fraudster then can go into the account and spend the money or transfer it to another account before the giver or recipient uses it and realizes what happened.
Another version involves scammers putting a fake barcode on the gift card. It looks legitimate, but the consumer has no idea. The money goes to scammers once the bar code is scanned to load the card. Some stores take preventative measures to attempt to protect against such scams, such as keeping gift cards for sale behind a counter. Others may require employees to examine gift cards prior to sale, looking for evidence of tampering or for cards with an untouched hologram sticker indicating authenticity.
How to recover the money
Victims of this fraud should notify the retailer on the card as it comes to light that the card is empty.
If you have experienced gift card fraud, feel free to contact a class action attorney at Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman & Zeldes, LLP for a free, confidential consultation. You can reach us by completing and submitting the case evaluation form below or by calling us at 619-400-4990.