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WARNING: Thieves draining gift cards before you can use them

CSPD sends warning to raise awareness
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Posted at 2:43 PM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-21 16:43:01-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — If you are buying gift cards this holiday season there are some new tactics scammers are using to drain those gift cards you should know about.

Colorado Springs Police Department Financial Crimes Sergeant Joe Matiatos says he's already seen this new gift card scheme occurring at multiple retailers throughout the city.

“What we are seeing is scammers are stealing gift cards from stores and then cutting out the barcodes. After the gift card’s barcode is cut out, the scammers then replace it with a bar code from another gift card they have already activated. The scammers then place the tampered gift card back on the sales rack. Once a victim goes to purchase the tampered gift card and the cashier activates what they think is a new gift card by scanning the barcode, money is actually being loaded to the scammer’s already activated card, not the new one,” Sergeant Matiatos says.

The trend is becoming more and more common, according to the National Consumer League.

The organization says thieves carefully copy the codes off a gift card, then put it back on the rack, and check it every day until a cashier activates it.

Once the card is activated, they use it immediately.

What you can do?

So what can you do to protect yourself? The Consumers League, through its Fraud.org website, suggests:

  • Inspecting the back of cards for tampering, such as a peeled off sticker, or torn cardboard.
  • Looking for cards with "substantial security packaging," where it is almost impossible to access the bar code.
  • Considering buying cards from behind the counter of smaller stores (that is typically impossible to do in a grocery store).
  • Holding onto the receipt.

Also, clerks at grocery and retail stores that sell gift cards are being trained to detect these scams and even the signs of someone who has been targeted and directed by a scam caller to purchase gift cards.
To see our story about one example in Southern Colorado just visit this link: https://www.koaa.com/news/on-your-side/safeway-employee-rescues-senior-from-gift-card-scam