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Protecting Your Money: Buying gift cards as holiday presents

Gift Cards
Posted at 1:19 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 14:51:33-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Many us either give or receive a gift card for Christmas, but listen to this.

The Federal Trade Commission reports that since 2018, consumers reported losing approximately $840 individually, and nearly $250 million in gift card scams.

In this Protecting Your Money segment, the Better Business Bureau let's us know what to watch for when we grab a gift card off the rack at the store.

Gift cards... you can't miss them. Everything from Starbucks to restaurants to Best Buy to Visa. They make quick and easy presents, and you, the consumer, decide their value, from $10 to $1,000.

But a word of caution before you pay for one.

"When purchasing any kind of gift card, the first thing that you need to do is inspect the card," Katie Galan with the Better Business Bureau advises. "Make sure all the protective stickers are in place. Sometimes it comes in that little cardboard case. You wanna make sure that hasn't been tampered with at all."

Galan says a common scam with these cards, not only in the Coastal Bend, but across Texas and the rest of the country, happens when some people go to the store and "they'll go pick a few. Scratch off that protective seal off the back, take the numbers, and then the cards holds no more value."

Once that happens to you, your first reaction is to take it back and get your money back, right? Good luck.

"It really is too bad, so sad unfortunately," Galan says. "So you could take that back to the store and it's not a very high likelihood that they're gonna refund your money because they have no way of knowing whether that was actually scratched off or whether you're not being truthful and trying to bring it back."

Something else to think about, the BBB says some cards lose their value if no activated right away.

"If you're buying some of those VISA vanilla gift cards, those kind of large, general gift cards that aren't to a specific place, those are typically the ones that are going to lose value if you don't use them."

Galan says a fee is taken out of the value of some cards each month they're inactive.

The BBB 2020 Scam Tracker data shows victims of gift card scams were over the age of 65. The FTC reports the most-reported gift and reload card brands are eBay, Google Play, Target, iTunes, and Amazon.