In-store gift-card scams now include tampering with packaging

An article in our local paper (Daily Post 120223 gift card scam) highlights a slight variation of an old threat.

One of the most common and long-running scams involves gift cards displayed within reach of customers that contain the gift card number in numerical or bar-code format visible on the packaging.  Thieves simply scan the bar-codes or copy the numbers, clone the cards onto blank or previously used gift cards from the same merchant, and wait for the gift cards to be activated by unsuspecting customers.

Once activated, the thieves use the cards before the customer has a chance to.

In this new twist, it is unclear whether the retailer has attempted to thwart the old scam by hiding the gift card identifier inside the packaging.  Regardless, the thieves are stealing the gift cards, opening the packaging, and replacing the gift card inside with another one, keeping the original gift card.  They then return the tampered gift card packaging back to the retail racks.  When the gift card is activated, the customer is left with a worthless depleted gift card while the thieves have the newly activated one.

This particular instance may simply be unsophisticated thieves who aren’t capable of cloning gift cards or it may be more sophisticated thieves attempting to get around packaging that doesn’t easily show the gift card number.