Think of buying last-minute gift cards? Scam rings are, too.


Want to be really safe? Buy from a reputable online gift card store.

We’re dangerously close to getting caught without a gift to give this holiday season – a fact that a new scam ring is tapping into to exploit millions of us who opt for last-minute gift card purchases.

Across the country, thieves are removing gift cards from in-store gift card displays, scanning the barcode, and returning them to the shelf. Called the “zero-value” gift card scam, when shoppers buy and try to activate the cards, they find that the thieves have already stolen the money. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office in California recently arrested a man with over 5,000 Target and Apple gift cards. 

But, some scammers are going even further to try and do in the unsuspecting consumer. WBAY-TV in Green Bay WI explains:

And there’s still more…

Ally Armeson, the expert and director of Cybercrime Support Network, told ConsumerAffairs that there are even more pitfalls in gift card scams this year, including free gift card giveaway scams. 

If someone promised you a gift card for completing a survey on behalf of a well-known company, or if you get pitched on a gift card “giveaway” that’s for a “limited time only” and that you must act quickly to take advantage of the offer, that’s a red flag. If someone requests that you pay a small handling fee to receive the gift card, another cause for concern. 

Armeson recommends that consumers look out for scammers who:

  • Initiate the scam using emails, text messages or phone calls

  • Send you to fraudulent websites to complete the survey or collect your sensitive information

That last warning – going to a fake website – requires a bit of consumer-side precaution, though. Armeson suggests that before you go to a website that someone sends you a link to, you take these steps:

“Look closely at what immediately precedes the final “.com”, “.org”, etc. For example, “” is not a real iTunes website,” Armeson told ConsumerAffairs.

“Inspect the website for spelling errors or design flaws, too, plus check for the padlock icon and ‘https:' 

“Although these can’t be relied on as a sole way to verify a website, they let you know that the connection between your browser and the website server is encrypted, preventing others from intercepting your communication.”

Safe places to buy

The only way around this? It might be simply buying gift cards online from a reputable resource like Amazon, which also has the upside of gift card discounts, or any of the other 20 sites that ITGust claims are safe as milk:





  5. Best Buy

  6. Walmart

  7. Amazon

  8. PayPal

  9. Raise

  10. CardCash

  11. Gyft

  12. Target

  13. Prestmit

  14. Amphy

  15. Lowe's

  16. Starbucks

  17. Groupon

  18. GiftCard Wiki

  19. GiftRocket

  20. LivingSocial

  21. MyGiftCardsPlus

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