Watch out for gift card scam

(Published Dec. 4, 2006, 11:38 a.m.)

Better Business Bureaus across the country are reporting a new scam involving the almost effortless theft of stealing gift card balances.

According to a news release, here's how the scam works: Thieves go to a store where gift cards are hanging on a rack or kiosk. They then copy numbers and merchant names from these gift cards. They wait a week or so and then call the 800 number that was on the back of the card to find out if the card has been activated. If it has, they go to the store's Web site and start shopping - using the stolen gift card number as payment. The unsuspecting recipient of the gift card later discovers that the card's balance has been drained.

The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau is offering these tips to prevent becoming a victim of a scam:

-- Don't buy gift cards that are easily accessible to the public. Purchase them only if they've been stored behind a counter or are handwritten gift certificates.
-- Before you buy, make sure the gift card hasn't been tampered with, such as having been removed and then replaced back into its cardboard holder.
-- Don't buy gift cards from Internet auction sites or clearinghouses. Often times, those gift cards turn out to be stolen.
-- When purchasing a gift card, keep the receipt as proof that you paid for it.
Immediately after buying a gift card in a store, ask the clerk to scan it to make sure that the balance is correct. Thieves have been known to steal new gift cards and replace them with old, used gift cards. When the bar code on the package is scanned, the stolen card is activated and the buyer now has a worthless gift card.

For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or (414) 847-6000 (metro Milwaukee) or (800) 273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).

The Better Business Bureau serving Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization that brings 65 years of experience in fostering ethical business practices; providing dispute resolution alternatives; offering consumer and business education; and promoting customer service excellence.

Reliability Reports provide the general public with critical information about companies both locally and nationally. To check on a company or charity visit www.wisconsin.bbb.org or call (800) 273-1002.



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