Better Business Bureau Warns Shoppers to Watch for Gift Card Scams

Related Story

COLUMBIA - The mid-Missouri Better Business Bureau is urging shoppers to be cautious and avoid falling for gift card scams this holiday shopping season.

The Bureau said 80 percent of American shoppers are expected to buy at least one gift card this holiday season and for this reason consumers should remain alert.

Regional director Mike Harrison said there are two ways scammers can use gift cards to their advantage.
"People actually can pick up the cards you know and they'll rub off the back, get the pin numbers, and put it back on the shelf," said Harrison.

According to Harrison, another way scammers can "steal" a gift card is by writing down the account number in the store, and then waiting for the card to be activated.

Once the card goes active, a scammer is then able to spend the money on the card. This means repercussions for the consumer.

"Say the gift card is for 50 dollars and a scammer has access to that and they spend that and then when it comes time to use that gift card that person is out fifty dollars," said Harrison.

In this situation either the gift card holder or the business will lose money.

Businesses in downtown Columbia said it would be frustrating to lose money to a scammer.

"We would be out of that money and it's essentially like that individual would take money from the cash register, there's really no difference," said Mustard Seed's executive director Crystal Midkiff.

Midkiff said for this reason, Mustard Seed takes extra precautions when it comes to gift certificates, even though the store has never been scammed.

"We have these really helpful cards that have Mustard Seed information on the front and on the back, which are really hard to duplicate, as well as a numbering system," said Midkiff.

She said the numbering system allows employees to match each number on any gift certificate to a number listed in a catalogue book.

"Every number, matches every name, matches every ID card," said Midkiff.

The Better Business Bureau said the safest way to purchase a gift card is by purchasing it directly from behind the counter at the store.

Other tips about avoiding holiday scams are available on the Better Business Bureau website.