How to protect yourself from holiday gift card scams

How to protect yourself from gift card scams

DETROIT – One couple thought they were doing everything right.

They were trying to protect themselves from thieves when they bought this Walmart gift card.

The two planned to use it at gas pumps knowing that some thieves plant skimmers at the pump to steal credit card data.

But thieves found them anyway when they swiped their brand new gift card.

“It was rejected. They said it was already used,” said Jim Lamka, gift card scam victim.

It had been used at another Walmart. One they’d never been to and the scammers wasted no time.

“We bought it in the afternoon and it was used that evening, five, six hours later.” “Somehow the bad guys got that card, the number of something, and were able to use it without having the card in their possession,” said Lamka.

Unfortunately, they are not alone.

“We’ve seen this repeatedly in our area,” said Melanie Duquesnel of the Better Business Bureau.

We’ve seen gift card scams before, but they usually come from scammers on the phone or in emails.

The Better Business Bureau says this one is the most common gift card scam hitting Metro Detroit now.

“They’ll pick a couple cards out. Without anyone else looking at it, they’ll copy the front number, they’ll scratch off the security code on the back, copy that number and then put the card back,” said Duquesnel. “Come to find out, once you gift it and the person has activated it, there is no money there.”

But there are things you can do to make sure you don’t fall victim.

“When you’re looking at buying gift cards make sure that security code is not scratched off,” said Duquesnel.

If it is tell a store manager.

“They don’t want the aggravation of the customer having a problem, but more importantly they can go back and look at video footage to see if they can find the perpetrator of those thefts,” said Duquesnel.

Experts also recommend you pick cards from the center of the stack or better yet from the cashier or online.

Lamka says Walmart is refunding his $50.

“But this holiday season we won’t probably be buying off the rack any more,” he said.

About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4’s Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV’s “Help Me Hank” Consumer Unit. Hank works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off people in our community.