Convenience of gift cards make them easy target of thieves

AP Photo

Gift cards have recently become the “go-to” gift for many. You can find them just about everywhere and they’re easy and convenient gift ideas.

But they’ve also attracted the attention of thieves.

Greg Dunn, CEO of Better Business Bureau Hawaii, says “one of the things to do when you get a gift card is look at the back of it and make sure that the (number) hasn’t been scratched off.”

Most gift cards have a three or four digit PIN under a silver scratch-off that’s used to verify a card’s balance.

But thieves have found a way to steal the card’s value, even before it ends up in someone’s hands.

“Criminals could scratch off the PIN number and have recorded the gift card numbers as well as the PIN,” Dunn said. “That’s the only information they would need to steal, whatever balance that may have been placed on that gift card. They could check it over and over and over until that gift card is sold.”

As far as getting your money back if you’ve become a victim, Dunn says don’t count on it. “If you purchase it with that card number already scratched off, then essentially it’s going to be your word against the merchant’s in terms of who’s responsible.”

So if you’re buying a gift card, make sure that the silver scratch-off is intact before you get to the register. If you get one which has already been scratched off, there’s a chance it may have been compromised.

Dunn says businesses can also do their part to protect consumers.

“Merchants should keep those cards secured, especially if it’s something that we’ve identified at a particular store and there’s a pattern where this has happened. We know if some merchants keep those cards completely locked up and secured and audited, they understand how many cards they have and what employees have access to them.”

If you have a consumer concern or are interested in becoming an Action Line volunteer, give us a call at 591-0222 weekdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or send an email to actionline@khon2.com.

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