Cash register gift card offer in department store. Similar theme as my popular file #1589232


Are you buying gift cards this holiday season? Consider this. Thieves hit store gift card racks, secretly write down or scan the numbers off the cards, then check online or call the toll-free number to see if someone has bought the cards and activated them. As soon as a card is active, the scammers drain the funds. By the time your gift recipient tries to use the card, the money is long gone.

Advice from fraud expert Sid Kirchheimer

Some crooks even use tiny card readers to scan electronic information from the cards’ magnetic strip and then replace the cards; once a card is activated, swindlers can clone a duplicate card for an in-store shopping spree.

What to know: At stores, to reduce the risk of purchasing gift cards that have been tampered with, buy cards at a counter staffed by employees instead of getting them off an unmanned rack. If you must buy from a display rack, choose cards toward the back, and check packaging to ensure it hasn’t been opened. Also, always get a receipt for yourself as well as for the card recipient. Most retailers can track where their gift cards were purchased, activated and used; so if yours has been hijacked, having a receipt will usually qualify you or the recipient for a refund or replacement.


Be a fraud fighter!  If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at for more information on fraud prevention.