Just in time for the holidays, Colorado Spring police issued a warning Wednesday that scammers have something new up their sleeves: replacing bar codes on gift cards sold at retailers with fake ones.

Thieves are stealing gift cards from stores and cutting out the bar codes to replace them with a code from another gift card they’ve activated, police said. The tampered gift card is then put back on the sales rack, and loads money into the scammers account once the cashier activates it.

“Money is actually being loaded to the scammers’ already activated card, not the new one,” said Sgt. Joe Matiatos.

Police warned shoppers to carefully check gift cards before purchasing them — there might be evidence of tampering like scotch tape, torn packaging, bar codes not matching up or a different thickness in the card.

Retailers were encouraged to check the card balance at checkout, and ensure the card doesn’t carry a previous balance before activating it.

At least three people have been arrested in Colorado Springs for this type of scam at a Safeway, police said.

“Safeway is committed to protecting our customers, and this time of year we are especially sensitive to the potential for gift cards scams,” said Kris Staaf, a Safeway representative.

“Financial crime is a serious offense,” reads the release. “Colorado Springs detectives do not take them lightly.”

Multimedia Journalist

Liz is a multimedia journalist with a specific interest in space exploration and environment. She watches way too much Star Trek and is working toward her rescue scuba divers certification. Liz joined the Gazette staff in 2019.

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