News Details

Consumer Alert: Gift Card Scam

Woodbury:  The Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Gloucester County Office of Consumer Protection want to alert the public on a relatively new scam involving Gift Cards.

The scam works like this: the ‘scammers’ take notes or photograph information displayed on gift cards being offered for sale, out in the open and unprotected from store personnel, then periodically check to see if they have been activated and when they are they drain these cards of the amounts they are worth.

Freeholder Director Stephen Sweeney said “Gift cards are very popular this time of the year and people purchasing them and the merchants offering them need to be certain that the card they intend to buy or sell has the full amount on it and the card has not been drained of its value.” 

Freeholder Bill Krebs who is liaison to the Consumer Protection office added, “We don’t believe the scam is that widespread here yet, but it is important to make consumers alert and to check their gift cards thoroughly before taking them out of the store.”

This alert does not apply to all gift cards.  This alert involves two types: those that can be used over the internet to make “card not present” (CNPs) purchases and those cards that are exposed to the public at counters and other store displays and have PIN numbers on back of the cards.

The cards being sold with PIN numbers can easily be pulled, several at a time, from a store rack and taken to a secure location by the thieves, (like a dressing room), the cards removed from their flimsy holder, serial numbers taken, PIN numbers scratch-off covering removed, where they then write down the numbers they need and return the cards to the store’s rack.

Then the thieves check the serial numbers from time-to-time to see when the card is activated and purchase items online, draining your card of its cash value.  It could be in your pocket book or wallet for months before one would realize the value was stolen.

The Gloucester County Office of Consumer Protection offers the following tips on keeping the value of gift cards from being stolen

Always check the gift card completely with the store clerk at checkout.

If the gift card has a PIN number on the back, make sure the number is not exposed.  If the number is exposed do not purchase the card. 

If you purchase a card with a pre-set cash limit, ask the store clerk to scan it to ensure that the correct dollar amount is still on the card and someone hasn’t already depleted the card’s value.

If you would like more information on this or other consumer related information, please contact the Office of Consumer Protection 384-6855.