How to Make the Most of Your Holiday Gift Card Purchases and Avoid Getting Ripped Off!


As Christmas approaches, more and more shoppers are turning to gift cards as last minute gifts, stockings and that ‘hard to buy’ person in every family come in.

As more and more people turn to gift cards, it’s no wonder this industry is experiencing accelerated growth. According to Research and Markets, the United States gift card market is expected to reach $ 170.78 billion in 2021 and $ 238.97 billion by 2025. However, consumers don’t seem to be the only ones who love them. gift cards – crooks steal money. cards as soon as they are removed from the rack.

How the scam works

The crook removes the cards from the display rack, notes the gift card numbers and scratches the strip on the back to reveal the security code. The crook then puts a replacement strip back on the security code, puts the card back on the rack, and leaves the store. Once the customer purchases the card, the scammer uses the number online and cleans the gift card before the customer even has a chance to use it.

While gift card issuers are stepping up their security that flags suspicious activity during purchase and redemption, consumers can always take extra steps to protect themselves. Here are some tips when buying a gift card this season.

  1. Examine the gift card. Before purchasing a gift card, be sure to examine it thoroughly to make sure the PIN code is not exposed or the packaging has not been tampered with. If something looks suspicious to you, you better buy a new one. Scammers are impatient and will usually place the gift card towards the front of the rack, so it’s best to grab a card from the back.
  2. Do your research. It’s best to check the terms and conditions, expiration date, or fees associated with the gift card before deciding to purchase one. Some stores charge a service or installation fee, or limit the gift card to in-store only, which means you can’t use it online. Some states have laws relating to gift cards; you can check with your state’s attorney general’s office for more information.
  3. Register your gift card. If the retailer allows the option to register your gift card, take full advantage of it. Registering your gift card makes it easier to track any misuse, that way you can report it sooner and potentially save the money that’s being stored.
  4. Treat it like money. If you lose your gift card or someone steals it, it’s best to report it to the issuer immediately. Some issuers may not allow you to collect funds, and some will, but for a fee.
  5. You may be required to show proof of purchase and the identification number on the card.
  6. Be careful when checking the balances. BBB Scam Tracker has received reports from sites claiming to help you check your gift card balance, but the site is stealing your balance. If you need to check a gift card’s balance, go to the site listed on the back of the card itself or, if there isn’t one, go to the company’s website and look for a link to the gift card page.
  7. Be careful when buying from a third party. If you buy a gift card at an auction or on a third-party website, you may end up with a gift card that is worthless, expired, or obtained fraudulently. The seller might sell you a gift card that actually contains the actual balance, but steal the numbers and start cleaning the gift card after receiving it.
  8. Do not pay with a gift card. No reputable company would ask for payment via a gift card. If you get a call asking you to pay with a gift card, just hang up. Scammers use scare tactics threatening you with jail time unless you immediately pay them off with a gift card. These scary tactics are nothing more than a tactic to get your hard earned money.
  9. Consider the financial situation of the retailer. If you buy a gift card from a business that declares bankruptcy or goes bankrupt, the value of the card may be less than you expected. If you feel like the business is on shaky ground, it may be best to purchase a gift card from another retailer instead.
  10. Keep your information private. No reputable company will ever ask you for personal information when purchasing a gift card. If they do, consider this a big red flag and buy one somewhere else.
  11. Be careful when selling online. If you decide to place your gift card online, be careful. A scammer posing as the buyer will ask to make a three-way call with the merchant to verify that the card is active and has an outstanding balance. While listening, the buyer records the dial tone numbers entered to intercept the gift card number, and then uses the gift card without even paying for it. If someone asks to listen to your balance request or wants to look over your shoulder as you enter the numbers, it is most likely a scam.

Once you’ve purchased a gift card, here are some federal rules for the sale and redemption of gift cards and consumer guidelines designed to help you and the recipient of your gift card have the best experience. possible experience.

  • The sale and redemption of gift cards are governed by federal regulations.
  • Inactivity fees cannot be charged until the card has been used for 12 months.
  • Gift cards cannot expire for at least 5 years.
  • No more than one fee (of any kind) can be billed to the cardholder in a single month.
  • The information printed on the card should disclose the fee and an expiration date, and provide a toll-free number or website where you can get more information.
  • One-time fees may be charged when you purchase the card, although this generally only applies to gift cards purchased through your credit card company, not those purchased directly from stores and restaurants.
  • If a third-party gift card seller violates any of these rules, contact the BBB and file a report with the FTC.

Sources:, Markets and Research, and the FTC – Source: US Federal Trade Commission, – not subject to copyright protection. 17 USC 403.

For more details on the market study and research cited in this article, see US Gift Card and Incentive Card Market Intelligence and Future Growth Dynamics (databook) – Size and Market Forecast (2016-2025) – Second Quarter 2021 Update.

To report a scam, call your local BBB or go to BBB Scam Tracker. To find reputable companies, visit


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