Physical Gift Card Scam? [It's Real]

Updated: May 16, 2019

A gift card can be the ideal gift. No idea what to buy for that special someone’s birthday or upcoming graduation? A gift card can solve that. A gift card allows recipients to purchase the gift they truly want. No more dreaded, unappreciated or undesired gifts. No more wasting money on the wrong item.

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Unfortunately, as gift cards have grown in popularity, scammers have figured out how to take advantage of innocent shoppers. Unsuspecting shoppers purchase gift cards that are soon to be wiped clean of any loaded funds.

This past holiday season, the scam has grown exponentially - so much so, that the Better Business Bureau is warning shoppers about the dangers of purchasing gift cards. The scam is most likely to occur in a retail location where gift cards are set out on racks. This makes the gift cards easily accessible to everyone; shoppers and scammers.

How Does the Gift Card Scam Work?

Scammers write down or photo gift card numbers, directly from the store. They leave the gift cards on the rack for shoppers to purchase. Before the shoppers can even use their new gift card or gift them (no pun intended), the gift cards are wiped clean. The scammers have already used the gift card number to pay for online transactions. In short: shoppers purchase a gift card, load their own money and a scammer rips it off.

How to Protect Yourself from the rack Gift Card Scam:

To help you prevent you from falling victim to this scam, we have compiled a few tips when shopping for gift cards.

1. Shop the back of the rack. When shopping for a gift card, the BBB recommends picking out your gift card from the back of the rack. Scammers tend to jot down the numbers of the gift cards closest to the front, in hopes that shoppers will purchase those quickly. A quick purchase by a shopper means funds are available for scammers instantly. While shopping in the back of the rack won’t guarantee you’re entirely safe from the scam, it certainly improves your odds.

2. Inspect your gift card before purchasing. Most shoppers haphazardly pick up a gift card, without checking for anything suspicious. After all, gift cards are convenience gifts. Take the time to inspect the packaging, making sure there are no tears, damages or that the pin number is not exposed.

3. Register your card. Not all gift cards can be registered. However, if your gift cards can be registered with the retailer, it’s in your best interest to do so.

4. Buy gift cards directly. Third-party gift card selling sites have gained popularity in recent years. Users sell unwanted gift cards to shoppers that want them. People also sell gift cards on other platforms like CardCash. While it may seem like a deal to purchase a gift card from a third-party, typically at a discounted price, be forewarned of its risks: it might be a scam.

Stay away from sites that claim to check your balances. The best way to check your gift card balance is directly through the retailer. A gift card typically lists a website or customer service phone number directly on the back of the card. Use this information to check your card balance.

Third-party sites that claim to check your balance, known as trackers, are a scam. Users upload their gift card information in hopes of retrieving their balance, only to find their gift cards soon wiped clean. The BBB has already warned the public about one site that has used this method to scam countless users.


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