In addition to the myriad of tricks and tactics fraudsters use to dupe you out of your money, you should take a closer look at any gift cards you purchase this holiday season.
A card draining scam happens when criminals take down the numbers on the back of a gift card and then wait for someone to purchase it and activate it. Once the card’s recipient does so, the fraudster uses the gift card themselves, leaving the giftee with a useless piece of plastic.
Scammers work year-round but ramp up their efforts during the holidays. Shoppers in turn must be extra vigilant. Gift cards are an easy stocking stuffer, and you can find one for almost anything, including streaming services. These easy and popular gift options make them perfect targets for a scam.
When you’re picking out a gift card at the store, check it over for signs of tampering. Is the package damaged? Have the numbers on the back been scratched off and revealed? It doesn’t take a lot of work to get the numbers for a gift card, unfortunately. The Visa Vanilla gift card, for example, could be compromised and the packaging could be totally intact, according to Wood TV 8.
If something doesn’t look right, take it to a cashier to let them know. Don’t put it back on the shelf and put someone else’s holiday in jeopardy.
You can also add another layer of protection by buying the gift card from the retailer’s website or online. For example, you can buy a gift card for Netflix online through stores like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Newegg, and have it delivered via email or text to your loved one. In addition, when you shop online, the gift card numbers are randomly generated.
If you do purchase a gift card in store, in addition to giving it a brief assessment, security analyst Thomas Ciccone told NBC News recommended using a credit card to make the purchase. Ciccone said some credit card companies may offer purchase protection to get your money back.
Take steps to ensure a safe shopping season by doubling checking deals and promotions directly on the company’s website, not clicking suspicious links in your text messages or emails, not answering calls from numbers you don’t recognize, and not giving out personal information over the phone.