Gift Card Stripping

Holiday gift cards are attractive to fraudsters because they are usually displayed in the open and can be easily taken from a display counter. They contain no customer information until loaded by the store and are subsequently handled just like cash.

The scheme works like this: The fraudsters will take a stack of gift cards off a sales rack or shelf in a store and sneak off to an out-of-the-way spot to capture the identifying information contained on the cards by using a skimming device. Once the fraudster has captured the digital information from the cards, he leaves the store and simply waits. By using a computer or calling the phone number on the back of the cards, he can determine when the card was sold and when it was activated by the purchaser.

Because many holiday gift cards are sold as gifts to be used in the future, the fraudster has time to use the card number for online purchases before the consumer realizes that the balance has been dramatically reduced.

  • When purchasing a Gift Card - Consider asking the sales employee if you can purchase a card that has not been on display and this should minimize your chances of purchasing a scanned gift card. Stores often retain a stock of gift cards behind the customer service desk or in a storage room, where access to fraudsters is limited.
  • Check the back of the card before purchasing - If the identifying numbers or codes are easily seen without removing the card, put it back. If you can see the code, anyone can. A quick check for signs of tampering can go a long way in reducing the chances that someone has tampered with the card.

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