DUPONT, Wash. – Gift cards are practical for the people who “have everything,” allowing them to make their own purchases and avoid trips to stores to return ugly sweaters. The convenience of a universal gift is appealing and Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to develop safe gift card giving habits.
Shoppers will spend nearly $118 billion on gift cards in 2013 and six in ten Americans indicate that they would like to receive these items as holiday gifts, according to the National Retail Federation. As gift card giving increases, so does the prevalence of gift card scams:
- Digital Gift Card Theft: Cybercriminals pose as retailers to phish for virtual gift card information and clean out balances.
- Physical Gift Card Theft: Thieves visit stores, collect gift card information and continue to check card numbers until they are purchased and activated, immediately using all of the funds.
- Fake Secondhand Gift Cards: Scammers post gift cards to online auctions or classified sites and offer discounted prices on counterfeit or already-used cards.
When shopping for gift cards, BBB offers practical advice:
- Avoid buying gift cards online. Only purchase cards directly from the issuing stores, no matter how much cheaper they may be elsewhere.
- Examine cards carefully. Thoroughly inspect cards and do not buy them if they look like they may have been altered.
- Bypass public display racks. Don’t buy gift cards off publicly-displayed racks in retail stores; but, do not assume that because gift cards are inaccessible to the public, they are safe.
- Ask cashiers to scan and verify cards. Have gift cards scanned and activated at checkout and have cashiers verify balances before leaving stores.
- Keep receipts. Many retailers can track where cards are purchased, activated and used and may be able to replace stolen cards with the proper proof of purchase.
It is estimated that more than $1 billion in gift cards go unredeemed annually. Remember, legislation passed in 2010 states that money on prepaid cards cannot expire for at least five years—even if expiration periods are shorter; make sure to read the fine print on all cards before making purchases. Learn more about consumer gift card rights from the Federal Trade Commission and BBB.