(3TV/CBS 5) − Right now, many of us are searching for the perfect gift, as Christmas fast approaches.

Problem is, it might be tough to find that perfect gift, which is why gift cards may be the way to go.

Before you buy one though, make sure you give the card a thorough look over.

The Better Business Bureau says you should be checking to make sure the pin number isn't exposed or the packaging hasn't been tampered with.

If this is the case, get a new one.

The BBB says scammers are taking those numbers, waiting for you to buy the card, then wiping it and taking the money as you're leaving the store.

What's also important: Scammers will usually put the gift card toward the front of the rack, so it’s best to grab a card from the back.

If you lose your gift card or someone steals it, it’s best to report it to the issuer immediately.

Some issuers may not allow you to recover any of the funds, and some will, but for a fee.

Interesting to note, according to the National Retail Federation, gift card spending is expected to reach $27.6 billion this holiday season.

They also say women are more likely to purchase a gift card than men.

According to the survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 59 percent of survey respondents said they will be purchasing gift cards for their loved ones, while 61 percent of respondents will be asking for a gift card as a gift this year.

The Better Business Bureau suggests doing the following:

Do your research: It’s best to double check the terms and conditions, the expiration date or any fees tied to the gift card before you decide to purchase one. Some stores charge service or setup fees, or limit the gift card to in store only, meaning you can’t use it online. Some states have laws relevant to gift cards; you can check with the office of the Attorney General in your state for more information.

Register your gift card: If the retailer allows the option to register your gift card, take full advantage. Registering your gift card makes it easier to keep track of any misuse occurring, that way you can report it sooner and potentially end up saving the money that is stored. Treat it like cash

Use caution when buying from a third party: If you purchase a gift card at an auction or on a third party website you may end up with a gift card that has no value, is expired, or was fraudulently obtained. The seller could sell you a gift card that does indeed have the actual balance on it, but steal the numbers and start wiping the gift card clean after you receive it.

Don’t pay using a gift card: No reputable company would ask for payment via a gift card. If you receive a call demanding you must pay using a gift card, just hang up. Scammers use scare tactics by threatening you with jail time unless you pay them immediately with a gift card. These scare tactics are nothing but just a tactic to get your hard earned money.

Consider the financial condition of the retailer: If you purchase a gift card from a company that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business, the card may be worth less than you had anticipated. If you feel like the company is on shaky ground, it may be best to purchase a gift card from another retailer instead.

Keep your information private: No reputable business would ever ask you for personal information when purchasing a gift card. If they do, take that as a big red flag and purchase one elsewhere.

Use caution when selling online: If you decide to place your gift card online, use caution. Usually the buyer will ask to three-way the merchant to verify the card is active and has a remaining balance. While listening, the buyer records the touch tone numbers entered to intercept the gift card number, and then they use the gift card without even paying for it. If someone asks to listen to your balance inquiry, or wants to look over your shoulder while you enter the numbers, it is most likely a scam.


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