Gift Card Theft And Scams

Dover, New Hampshire, police are warning business owners that thieves are using stolen credit card numbers to buy gift cards. The thieves use the numbers to create new fake cards. While only the police in Dover have spoken out about it, they say the scheme may cover southern New Hampshire and Maine.

Surveilence pictures have shown three women and two men who may be driving a white or silver four-door sedan with a moon roof. None of the suspects have been seen together, but they have all visited the same stores and investigators believe they are working as a group. This isn’t the only place where criminals are running such a scam, either. In January, Chicago police warned that stolen credit cards were being used to buy gift cards before being dumped by the thief.

Another popular means of stealing with gift cards is to write down the bar code and check online to see if it has been activated. Once the card has been activated, the thief spends it online. While the use of PIN numbers have slowed this manner of theft down some, it has not stopped completely. In December of last year, police arrested a couple who had managed to do this for an astonishing $13,000 worth of cards. Online auction sellers of gift cards can either overstate the value of the card or sell cards the person either stole themselves or bought with stolen credit cards.

Gift cards are a popular item to give on holidays and birthdays, and it’s no wonder why. The cards allow the giver little worry about an unwanted gift, and the person who gets the card can use it on anything they want at that store. To keep yourself from being a victim of these scams, do a few simple things. Always inspect any gift card you want to buy, and if anything looks tampered with, don’t buy it. Make sure that you look for cards that are behind the register at a retailer, as those cards are much less likely to be copied or stolen. Never buy a gift card from an online auction seller regardless of how good it appears to be: it’s far too easy for a scammer to sell you something. When you get a gift card as a gift, spend it as quickly as possible. Over one billion in gift cards were unredeemed in 2013, and scammers count on that.

Gift cards are essentially a form of cash. Treat them as such.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]