By Katie Pelton
KKTV 11 News
Already this holiday season, I’ve heard from several viewers who have had issues with gift cards they bought to give as Christmas presents. So I reached out to some of the experts to see what we can do to thwart crooks this time of year.
“I purchased two gift cards from Walmart for $100 each and I gave them to my employees as gifts,” said Carrie. “A couple weeks later, when those employees went to use them, I found out that there was no balance on them.”
Carrie said she reached out to Walmart and they confirmed the cards were used to make a purchase at other local Walmart stores. I contacted the corporate office and, at the time of this writing, Walmart told me they are looking into the matter.
Another man called our 11 Call for Action hotline when he bought $850 worth of Amazon gift cards at a different grocery store, only to find they had been drained shortly after he got them.
“I got home and scratched the codes off, checked them on my Amazon account, and they said they already had been claimed by somebody,” said Wayne. “They had no money on them.”
Wayne told me it had only been minutes since he had purchased the cards. The bad guys must have wiped the money immediately.
“It was within a half-hour, to an hour, tops to when I punched them into my account and they didn’t work,” Wayne said. “The cards were perfect. I checked the packaging.”
I contacted Amazon and they are looking into the issue. I reached out to police and they told me they haven’t heard of this scam in our area and they are looking into it. I also talked to the head of the national consumer nonprofit, Call for Action, about the different ways cards can be wiped.
“There are what they call ‘bots,’ hackers get into the system and they scan for numbers and when they find a number that actually matches a gift card, they can wait and see when that gift card is purchased and activated and money is put on it,” said Shirley Rooker, Call for Action President. “Then, first thing you know, you take your gift card home and it has no value if some hacker got it and they took the value off.”
“There’s some other ways it can work as well,” she added. “Say there’s a display counter, the crook comes in and takes the card and they may scratch off the identifier, write it down, and then when you pay for the card, they’ve got all your information to access the account and take the money off.”
Rooker said there are some steps you can take to try to prevent getting a bad card, like choosing a card from the middle of the stack, or one that’s higher on the rack, in hopes that the crooks haven’t touched them. Make sure to inspect the card closely. If your gift card is drained after you buy it, report it to the store, call your credit card company and report it to the company that issued the card. If you get a gift card as a present, I suggest using it right away because the longer you wait, the higher chance it could be wiped.