How to Avoid Gift Card Scams During the Holidays

How to Avoid Gift Card Scams During the Holidays

December 13, 2019         Written By John H. Oldshue

Gift cards are particularly popular around the holiday season, even though only 22% of Americans prefer getting gift cards for Christmas. Unfortunately, an uptick in gift card sales also means an increase in gift card scams.

According to a new report from AARP, 19% of adults have given or received a gift card with no funds on it. This is often the result of a gift card scam. Here’s how the process works:

  • Scammers collect gift card numbers and PINs while the cards are still in store.
  • Once a card is sold/activated, the scammers use the stored card data to make purchases with the card.
  • The card recipient does not know the funds are depleted until he or she goes to use the card. At that point, there is little the gift card issuer can do to reimburse the funds.

Data collection happens discretely. The cards may not appear tampered with at all. However, if you plan to purchase a gift card in the future, examine it before completing the purchase. If the area with the PIN is exposed, the card has most likely been compromised.

AARP reports that 70% of Americans plan to purchase gift cards this holiday season. To protect yourself against gift card scams, purchase cards from retailers who keep the cards behind the counter. You may also purchase virtual gift cards online for most retailers. If you receive a gift card from someone else, check the balance before trying to use it in a store.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of December 13, 2019. For up-to-date information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website. Many of the offers on this article are from our affiliate partners, and may be compensated if you take action with any of our affiliate partners.


About John H. Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers credit card rate issues for
View all posts by John H. Oldshue
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