Consumers warned to be careful when buying gift cards

Consumers warned to be careful when buying gift cards
Gift Cards (Source: Photo by: Josh Auzenne/WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - You might want to think twice about buying gift cards this Christmas.

Attorney General Jeff Landry reminds people that there are pros and cons to purchasing gift cards. The Better Business Bureau of South Central Louisiana is also warning consumers about a particular gift card scam going around after receiving calls about it.

"It can be stressful and time consuming to find the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on your list, which is why so many choose to simplify giving through gift cards,” said Landry. “So my office and I are providing tips to help consumers purchase valid gift cards and avoid being scammed by a Grinch seeking to take advantage of the holiday season.”

The AG’s office is offering tips for those buying gift cards:

  • Purchase from known and trusted sources. Avoid online auction sites, as cards sold there could be counterfeit or obtained fraudulently. 
  • Read the fine print. Check for added fees and see if there are shipping and handling costs when purchasing gift cards by phone or online.
  • Gift the receipt as well. Give the recipient the original receipt in case the card is later lost or stolen. 
  • Consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. A card from a company that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business may be worth less than anticipated. If the business closes a store near the recipient, it may be hard for them to find another location where the card can be used. 

There are also tips for those using gift cards:

  • Note the terms and conditions, especially the expiration date and usage fee.
  • Keep card’s terms and conditions in a safe place. Also ask giver for the original purchase receipt and the card’s ID number.
  • Report lost or stolen cards to the issuer immediately. 
  • Request expired cards be replaced. The issuer may agree to exchange it or reverse deducted fees.

Carmen Million is the president and CEO of the BBB of South Central Louisiana. She explained that while gift cards are an easy gift to give, consumers need to be careful about where they purchase them.

“Unfortunately, there are scammers who go to particular stores especially if they have the gift cards that are in an open space that is unprotected and they will get the numbers off the card,” said Million. “They will then wait a day or a week or so and they will remove every penny off of that card. Of course that unsuspecting buyer doesn’t realize it. They give the gift card and the person goes to use it and there’s nothing on it.”

Better Business Bureau warns consumers about gift card scams

Here are some tips to avoid getting scammed this holiday season:

  • 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.
  • Scammers are impatient and will usually put the gift card toward the front of the rack, so it’s best to grab a card from the back.
  • If the retailer allows the option to register your gift card, take full advantage. Registering your gift card makes it easier to keep track of any misuse occurring, that way you can report it sooner and potentially end up saving the money that is stored.
  • 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 recover any of the funds, and some will, but for a fee. You may need to show proof of purchase and the ID number on the card.
  • 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. 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; you can check with the office of the Attorney General in your state for more information.
  • If you decide to place your gift card online, use caution. Usually the buyer will ask to three-way the merchant to verify the card is active and has a remaining balance. While listening, the buyer records the touch tone numbers entered to intercept the gift card number, and then they use the gift card without even paying for it.
  • If someone asks to listen to your balance inquiry, or wants to look over your shoulder while you enter the numbers, it is most likely a scam.

If you think you are a victim of this scam, contact the Better Business Bureau of South Central Louisiana by calling 346-5222.

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