Alert: New Gift Card Scam Gives Your Gift Money to Thieves

Someone has been tampering with gift cards in Santa Cruz.

Look carefully at those gift cards that are lining store shelves, especially at the impulse-buy racks toward the checkout stands.

Someone has been tampering with them in Santa Cruz, in a new scheme to bilk cash from unsuspecting buyers.

Here's how it works:

Someone buys a gift card and has the clerk put a small amount, such as $5 or $10 on it. Meanwhile, they steal an armload of other blank cards.

When they get home, they copy the scanner code of the one they purchased, duplicate it and attach it to the stolen cards, which they replace on the shelves.

Then, when someone buys a card and puts money on it, the money goes to the card the thieves opened up, instead of to the person who is supposed to get the gift.

It's happened three times in Santa Cruz at Safeway stores, where thieves doctored American Express gift cards, according to deputy April Skalland.

The department is checking fraudulent cards for fingerprints and DNA, but for now, Skalland suggests that people only buy gift cards that are in locked containers. If you buy an open card, check the video to see what the fake cards may look like.

JJ Mclure January 17, 2013 at 03:16 PM
DNA...really?....what about the backlog of DNA test from rape victims
Mark Taylor January 17, 2013 at 06:06 PM
KPIX news had a story about something similar. The thieves would examine the gift cards in stores and lift the serial/activation numbers. Then they would activate them and spend them. People would buy the cards and then find out when they tried to use them the cash was already spent. This usually occurred to gift cards that were not enclosed in packaging materials that prevented the information from being known. The problem then turned on the person proving they never spent the money (usually proved when purchase receipt showed cash spent before purchase). Some companies were more helpful than others in getting replacement cards. This one is more clever and deceptive. You buy one legitimate card, steal a lot of blank cards, then clone the real one on all the fake ones and put those on the shelves. No one notices right away they are counterfeit meanwhile the criminal has got use of the first one which he or she quickly maxes out. They way to solve this one will be with old fashioned detective work and luck. Merchants like Walgreens may put gift cards behind locked cases to prevent this from happening.
Robin January 17, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Some people are much more creative than I will ever be. I think I'll stick with buying gift cards/scrip and supporting my local schools.


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