It’s that time of year again: shoppers are hitting the shops, malls or making all of their purchases online during the peak consumer season better known as Christmas. This year though experts are issuing an important warning before you begin swiping or entering your credit card details as there’s are several gift card scams to look out for.
Economic experts predict that consumers will spend at least $700 billion on holiday gifts and toys for their friends and loved ones before the end of the year. Because there are so many people out there looking for the right gift or wanting to express their love and gratitude with a gift card, this also makes it a prime season for identity thieves to target shoppers.
“Gift card scams are growing as thieves learn they can take advantage of unsuspecting and vulnerable consumers,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak, according to the Department of Commerce and Insurance. “I urge consumers to educate themselves in order to fight back against these unscrupulous individuals. If someone calls you demanding payment via a gift card, I urge you to hang up and report the incident to your local law enforcement authorities.”
With that being said, here are a few things you should keep in mind while you do your holiday shopping this year. Before purchasing a gift card, be sure to give it a thorough look to make sure the PIN number isn’t exposed, or the packaging hasn’t been tampered with. If anything looks suspicious, it’s best to grab a new one. A lot of scammers like to record the information from gift cards on store shelves and use the information to access the cash added to the card before it's purchased.
And here’s something else: a lot of people don’t read the fine print when it comes to gift cards, which can lead to a lot of trouble. It’s best to double check the terms and conditions, the expiration date or any fees tied to the gift card before you decide to purchase one. In addition, some stores charge service or setup fees, or limit the gift card to in-store only, meaning you can’t use it online. Some states have laws relevant to gift cards. Also, you might want to check the card to see if it’s wrapping has been altered or the pin revealed. If so, return the card for a full refund.
Previous reports indicated that consumers and retailers lost an estimated $1 million dollars from gift card scams in 2018 in the state of Tennessee alone. That is a 44 percent increase compared to the $653,000 that was stolen in 2017. Nationwide, that estimate is believed to be about $1 billion.