Watch Out for Discount Gift Card Scams

gift cards 150x150 Watch Out for Discount Gift Card ScamsI know it’s not Black Friday yet. It isn’t even Halloween! But some of us with very limited budgets are already starting pre-holiday shopping.

I love giving gift cards. They let the recipient get something they want, and I can still show I’m thinking of them because I know their favorite store! Recently, the BBB received a complaint about a gift card scam on Craigslist.

Here’s what happened: The consumer saw a $1,000 card advertised for $750. She met with the seller and called the number on the card to verify there really was $1,000 on it. She handed over $750. The next day, when she went to use the card, there was no money on it. And the scammer was gone.

How it works

  • It could be a faked duplicate card.
  • The person who checks and verifies the card could be a confederate of the scammer.
  • The scammer could have switched cards when the consumer wasn’t looking.
  • The scammer might have made an online transaction just minutes before meeting with the consumer. When the woman checked the card balance via phone, the automated machine read the balance before the transaction.

While the safest way to avoid gift card scams is to always purchase gift cards directly from the store, a retail manager at offers these tips to consider if you insist on buying from a stranger:

  • Meet up with the seller at the place where the gift card is usable. Ask him or her to buy you the item you want (at the same price listed on the gift card), and pay him or her afterwards.
  • Check the back of the card. If the pin is scratched off, then don’t buy because there is a greater chance that the card has already been used. However, even if the pin hasn’t been scratched off yet, there are ways to use it.
  • Keep your eyes on the gift card at all times, because some people will try to switch the cards when you’re not looking.
  • Always listen to your intuition. If you feel there’s something sketchy about the seller, then don’t buy. Some of the warning signs you may see are that he will call you from a private number, only call you on your number, but won’t give you his, or that he will want to meet with you at random places

More tips on spotting a fake are available at where blogger Kathy Kristof makes the following point:

“When somebody’s selling a $100 gift card on Craigslist for $20, you’ve got to ask why. You might try to justify it by saying that the person could have gotten a card for a store that’s not their favorite. But keep thinking. Gift cards are the perfect “re-gift.”

Why would somebody give it to you, practically for free, when they could use it as a birthday gift for somebody who does like that store–or sell it to a friend for close to face value?”

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About Holly Doering

Holly Doering has worked for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana for half a decade. Her areas of expertise include the CORE Values Program (Character, Optimism, Respect, Ethics) for Teens and Charity Review as well as writing and editing. Prior to that, she has written for two newspapers, a local magazine, and taught English at the community college. She is the proud author of a short story in ZYZZYVA literary magazine and has had good luck publishing lots of poetry. Each year she rolls up her sleeves and wades into the autumn Nanowrimo writing madness and has several unfinished novels to her credit.