SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The National Retail Federation estimates that about 60 percent of shoppers bought a gift card for the holidays, but consumer safety experts warn that scammers have discovered a way to drain the value off the cards.

Alex Stevenson is among those who have fallen victim to the scam. She received a $200 Best Buy gift card from her sister and got a surprise when she went to use it.

“It was rejecting the card – and he (the cashier) didn’t understand why,” she told CBS.

Jeff Blyskal, a senior editor with Consumer Reports, said scammers have discovered a way to drain the value off a gift card as soon as it is activated.

They simply take the card off the rack, tear off the strip covering the activation bar and right down the secruity code. They then return it to the rack and some even use ‘zebra’ stickers to recover the panel to make it look like the card has not been tampered with.

“If you are going to buy one in a store, make sure it has good packaging so you can’t see the account number without opening the packaging,” Blyskal warned.

Blyskal recommends if you are going to go the route of gift cards to order them from the retailer online. And if you should fall victim to the scam, he says to “go back to the retailer and say you want your money back.”


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