INDIANAPOLIS — A cybercrime organization is warning about a new twist on gift card scams that can set you up as a victim before you even leave the store.
According to Cybercrime Support Network (CSN), criminals are now tampering with gift cards while they are still on the rack at the store.
They look for gift cards that are on display far from the checkout counter so they are out of view. Then they tamper with the packaging so they can record the card number and PIN before fixing the packaging to cover their tracks.
Once they obtain the card number and PIN, they put the card back on the rack and leave. Then they wait for you, or whoever buys the card, to activate it. Savvy scammers use a computer program to alert them when the card is activated. That’s when they quickly go online and drain the funds before you get a chance to use the card.
A scam like this can go unnoticed for a long time because people often activate cards and let them sit around for weeks or even months before using them.
To avoid a scam, you should be selective about where you buy gift cards. Don’t grab the first one on the rack. Instead, ask for one that’s behind the counter or right next to the cashier. Look for any possible tampering on the packaging of the gift card — or you can stick to buying digital gift cards that a scammer will never physically come in contact with.
It’s also recommended that you don’t let your card sit around after activating it. It is safest to wait to activate the card until you are ready to use it. You could even call or go online to activate the card while you are approaching the checkout of the store.
CSN and the Federal Trade Commission also have good information about how to recognize, report, and recover from a gift card scam.