3OYS: Beware of gift card scams

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by Warren Trent

azfamily.com

Posted on December 20, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 2 at 10:30 AM

PHOENIX -- It's the last shopping weekend before Christmas and, as time runs out, many shoppers are purchasing gift cards.

Statistics show that 12 percent of shoppers buy gift cards and they spend an average of $45 per card.

But as gift cards grow in popularity, they are involved in an increasing number of scams.

"Unfortunately, scammers have found a way to take advantage of us even through as simple as giving a gift card," said Better Business Bureau spokeswoman Felicia Thompson.

Thompson said gift card scams are especially common during the holiday shopping season.

"They'll flip it around and scratch off the actual activation code or that special number that identifies your gift card, and they're putting it back on the shelves," she said.

Unsuspecting consumers then pick up the gift cards, not realizing the number is exposed and could have been copied.

The crooks redeem the gift cards online using the activation codes and spend the entire card value.

To protect yourself and the recipient of the gift card, inspect it for signs that it may have been tampered with.

Sealed packages containing multiple gift cards are usually more secure than individual cards.

Thompson said people should obtain gift cards from cashiers, if possible.

"We've heard folks say, 'Use the gift card as you would food packaging,' " she said. "If it looks like it's been tampered with ... you might not want to use that."

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