RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you have a gift card, or you're thinking about buying one, the FBI is alerting consumers about potential fraud. You've probably received a gift card that you did not want, if you have, then you know there are plenty of reputable sites that allow you to exchange it or sell it.
Special Agent, Doug Cook with the FBI says crooks are also aware of this and troll sites hoping to fool unsuspecting consumers. "Gift cards are almost as good as cash and once it is turned into cash, it is very easily transferable to another thing of value, another gift card or another item of value," he explains.
It's a race -- and the FBI says crooks are hoping to beat you to your cash. "They will see that value has been added to the card and quickly drain the card before the unsuspecting victim has had a chance to use it," Agent Cook says. There are a number of ways crooks can pull off the scheme. For example, a victim sells a gift card, receives payment and then after using it, the buyer disputes the charges. Also, you may end up on a fraudulent site that agrees to buy your gift card. Once criminals get your information, they use your gift card and stop payment. "The anonymity of the internet makes it very difficult and typically in a lot of these, the amount is a little lower, so it is very difficult to work these cases individually," he says.
The FBI offers safety tips on its internet crime complaint website, IC3.gov. It reminds consumer to always do research before doing business online. Also, when selling a gift card, never provide the PIN until the transaction is complete. Agent Cook says while you are safeguarding yourself online, don't forget, fraudsters are still targeting gift cards in stores. "Fraudsters will tamper with packaging, they will scratch off and reveal the pin codes and copy down the information, they will also use hand held scanners," Agent Cook says.
The FBI advises you to keep your receipt until you have used all the money on the card. If you think you have been a victim, report it to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov. Another tip, if possible, register the gift card on the issuing company's website, to keep track of the balance.
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