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Scams abound with gift cards this Christmas

Gift cards make convenient last-minute Christmas gifts. However, they also are attractive targets for scammers who want to steal money or personal information. According to the Better Business Bureau, 50 percent more people reported gift card fraud this year compared to last year.

Here are several popular scams:

            Display rack gift card trick. Scammers will record the activation code on the card or place a custom bar code sticker over the real bar code, which allows them to secretly load the cash onto their own card immediately after you purchase the gift card. This means that when you or your recipient try to use the gift card, it will be empty or invalid.

Impersonation gift card trick. This involves impersonating someone you know or trust, such as a family member, a romantic interest, a company or the government. Scammers will contact you by phone, text, email or social media and create a fake story or emergency that requires you to send them money urgently.

Resale gift card trick. Scammers will offer to sell you gift cards at a discounted price or buy your unwanted gift cards for cash. However, they will either send you a fake or empty gift card or take your gift card information and money without sending you anything in return. They also may use stolen credit cards or hacked accounts to buy or sell gift cards, which can put you at risk of fraud or identity theft.

 Phishing gift card trick. Scammers will send you an email, text or pop-up message that looks as it comes from a legitimate company, such as a retailer, a bank or a tech support service. They will claim that there is a problem with your account, your order, your device or your security and that you need to verify your identity, update your information or fix an issue. They then will ask you to click on a link, open an attachment or call a number and then request that you pay them with a gift card or provide them with your gift card information.

Loyalty program gift card trick. This gift card trick involves loyalty programs, which are rewards programs that offer you points, discounts or freebies for being a loyal customer. Scammers will pretend to be representatives of a loyalty program that you are a member of or that you are eligible to join. They will tell you that you have won a prize, a sweepstakes or a promotion and that you need to pay a fee, a tax or a shipping cost to claim it. They will then ask you to pay them with a gift card or provide them with your gift card information.

Experts offer these tips for safely giving and receiving gift cards

  • Buy gift cards online instead or physical cards directly from the store, not third parties. You can also use these favorite sites and apps that will reward you with money backon all gift card purchases.
  • Avoid gift card racks at retail stores such as grocery stores. If you still want to buy one at the store, dig back into the pile without taking the first ones off the rack. Inspect them like a detective to make sure they are unaltered.
  • Register the gift card directly with the retailer if offered, which also helps track card balance.
  • Never engage in any gift card transactions from callers making unusual claims, which likely is a scam.
  • Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites such as eBay.
  • Never provide personal financial information beyond a method of payment to anyone offering gift cards in-store or online.
  • Use antivirus protection. The best way to protect yourself from clicking on any malicious links, fake websites and phishing emails and text messages is to have antivirus protection installed and actively running on all your devices.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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