Old Apr 13, 2015, 12:55 pm
FlyerTalk Forums Expert How-Tos and Guides
Last edit by: phant0m
************Gift Card Fraud Alert************

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/

How can I protect myself?

1) Do not buy a card that has been opened or looks tampered with. Inspect all packaging thoroughly before purchasing. Many posters say that the packaging looks pristine, but the glue seems excessive once opened. Open the package to inspect the glue before you pay for it, if the cashier allows that.

2) Use the card quickly. The card has no value until YOU add money. If you spend your funds before the fraudster figures out that it's loaded, you win. Or at least register your card. That might give you another layer of security but beware it might NOT be bulletproof.

3) Keep your receipts and packaging until your card is liquidated. You will need the receipt to make a claim.

I'll add a few more from the school of hard knocks (also now known as the school of the paranoid MSer)....

4) If it's the only card of its type left on the rack, should you buy it or not? Consider: did the fraudster remove all the other cards so some sucker would quickly come along quickly and buy the card he has placed there purposefully?

5) A corollary to #4: Should you buy the top card in a stack of cards, or dig deeper and pick out one a distance from the top? Did the fraudster put the card he wants some sucker to buy at the top of the stack so it would sell quickly and he could do his evil deed?

6) Open card packages soon after purchase. Don't wait a few days. If anything looks amiss (too much glue inside the pack, too little glue inside, glue in the wrong location, mag stripe doesn't look right, some card numbers illegible), call the 800 number on the back of the card immediately to report it and ask about a replacement.



Each link of Gift Card MS:

1. Gift Card issuer: Vanilla, Metabank, US Bank, Green Dot etc. There can be data hack. It is rare.
2. GC Merchant: grocery and drug stores. Online GC sellers (Simon Mall, Gift Card Mall etc.). The data hack is possible, but rare.
3. Shipping: GCs can be stolen. But this is not fraud.
4. GC Cash Out: Walmart, Dollar General, Family Dollar, CVS etc. This is very rare.

For unsold GCs with bar code exposed, the store is required to destroy the GCs. Fraud can happen when the unsuspecting store staff return the unsold GCs back to the shelf. But it is very rare to have a batch of GCs all tampered and returned to the store shelf.

Here is a web site with information about gift card fraud:

http://www.tripwire.com/state-of-sec...-so-lucrative/



Here are some stores where FT members have experienced fraud:

List of Stores to avoid or be Alert:
(1) Reported by IWOL in So Cal:
VONS => Ventura Blvd & Reseda

Reported by Lovenola:

Ralph's in Downey at 9200 Lakewood Blvd.

Ralph's in Pasadena at 211 E. Foothill Blvd.

Ralph's in Monrovia at 1193 Huntington Dr.

3) Reported by domino007

Ralphs in 13321 Jamboree Rd, Tustin

Ralphs in Irvine on Alton, Walnut and Irvine Blvd

Reported by DaveInLA:
Ralphs in Brea- 305 W Imperial Hwy. VGC was purchased in 12/2014.

Reported by 46sky:
Ralphs in Culver City on Venice Blvd - VGC purchased 2/2015.

Reported by Chrisflyer66:
Ralphs in San Diego on Sports Arena - VGCs purchased in 2014-2015.

Ralph's - 1435 W Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92868 - Purchased 12/2019

Seems to me that only People in so.Cal are reporting
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Gift Card Fraud !!!

Old Sep 20, 2014, 9:51 pm
  #151  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 1,273
Originally Posted by seat17D
Visually, the bar code and mag stripe were unaltered. I haven't run the cards through a mag stripe reader, so I cannot say whether it was altered electronically or not.

Cards were drained within roughly 9 hours. The three cards were purchased about 45 minutes apart, but drained at about the same time.

Anecdotally, store managers have told me of cases earlier in the year where "cards were drained before the customer had left the store".

During the week I normally run all of the days cards after supper. Well, that's a gonna haf ta change. lol.

Ran across 3 more bad cards today ... identical alteration pattern. First two were at a store that would not let me check the glue. So I drained those before I left the store. Third one I had manager's permission to break open the packets and caught it before purchase. She was still telling me "the ones with the pull tab can't be tampered" when I showed her the tampered card.

This adds to the time and drama required, both of which I actively work to minimize. <ugh>

So far I'm not seeing any altered Sunrise vgc. Perhaps because their packaging is more tamper resistant?
Maybe. One version of the Sunrise cards even has mag stripes on the inside to prevent reading through the cardboard. But I've seen that packaging split open too fast as well. I don't know if it was tampered as I drained it immediately.
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Old Sep 20, 2014, 10:26 pm
  #152  
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 156
Looks like someone has formula to get the GC card number from the package number. OV/VGC has this problem. Even if the packaging is intact while buying, some one can drain it. Meta has not this issue. If packaging is good, no issues. I had similar issue with 2OV purchased from CVS. After 2 months, I got money back from innocomm.
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 11:16 am
  #153  
 
Join Date: May 2006
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Originally Posted by tech2011
Looks like someone has formula to get the GC card number from the package number.
That might be the case with the OVs, but the USB MCGC definitely are being opened up and then reglued.
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 9:52 pm
  #154  
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a conspiracy theory that proves to be correct with green dot

Sad that such theft happens to people.

I am not doubting that it happened to the OP, but even in such cases, something else happens even after OP eventually gets their money back:

Stores or companies selling the GCs go cash only due to fraud.

Yes, what happens is that enough stories of such theft go around and around that stores say NO MORE and this recently happened at Rite Aid with Green Dot cards.

I cant tell ya'll how many times every Rite Aid I have been in in the past 2 weeks has told me that it was their very store where some old man came in and was told he had to get a GD card and give the funds to someone to get out of some bind. The clerks will all tell you this scam happened in their store and on their watch! It's almost comical to see them say it, since just down the street or in the next town or county, another clerk will tell you the same exact thing.

Either way, though, the fact is the store and/or Green Dot uses such stuff like this as an excuse to go cash only.

***

We have to be very careful when buying GCs. This is real money we are holding and many forget that.

I tend to try and do the following:

~check my receipt as I buy them--make sure I have the number I paid for and that the receipt shows each as activated.

~save everything - receipt, the packet the gc comes in (if it's a GD or Vanilla one, since the barcodes on those do NOT match what is on the GC) and number the packets and GCs. I can toss the packets once I used the GC though.

~try to use the GC on the same day I bought it.

~immediately report any issue or problem with the gc when I buy it or open it.

~be ready to float funds if necessary. Sometimes even if it can all work out, you gotta wait weeks to get your money back, because they gotta check YOU out too before sending it.

Anyway I hope people do not get hosed trying to MS. A few good crooks can ruin this whole thing for everyone... but a few stories like these and the stores will end it for us anyway. That'd stink, eh?

MM
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 10:19 pm
  #155  
 
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These scams have been going on in SoCal for quite some time. Got hit by it last October. Start reading here in this thread for my account, resolution and experiments to replicate

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/manuf...l#post21632193
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 10:29 pm
  #156  
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Originally Posted by jasonvr
These scams have been going on in SoCal for quite some time. Got hit by it last October. Start reading here in this thread for my account, resolution and experiments to replicate

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/manuf...l#post21632193
yah that's nuts!

did you ever recoup anything?

***

The weird part is, many who MS heavily have been long seeking methods that can make a GC look less like a GC so that when a clerk asks to see the cards they are using, they can produce something that looks like a 'real bank' (as if these clerks are bank experts). So what some have wanted to do was to make such front of card graphics and stickers to cover things--not to fraud or steal money, but to 'un-giftcard' the cards! The problem is, it makes what we do soooo close to being what the scammers do, it almost crosses the same lines!
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 10:42 pm
  #157  
 
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Originally Posted by Marathon Man
yah that's nuts!

did you ever recoup anything?

***

The weird part is, many who MS heavily have been long seeking methods that can make a GC look less like a GC so that when a clerk asks to see the cards they are using, they can produce something that looks like a 'real bank' (as if these clerks are bank experts). So what some have wanted to do was to make such front of card graphics and stickers to cover things--not to fraud or steal money, but to 'un-giftcard' the cards! The problem is, it makes what we do soooo close to being what the scammers do, it almost crosses the same lines!
Yeah. I had a replacement card within a week. Dealt with the Safeway gift card department. Replacement came directly from Blackhawk.

I had hoped that Coin would be interesting way to disguise cards, but many of us know how that went. That reminds me, I still need to get my refund for my pre-order......
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 10:50 pm
  #158  
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
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metas are highly secure. They even thwart legit attempts to open them. They frequently put a glue strip right under the perforated pull tab so you have to tear the tab into tiny bits and use your fingernail to expose the barcode. Brilliant!
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 10:50 pm
  #159  
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Originally Posted by jasonvr
Yeah. I had a replacement card within a week. Dealt with the Safeway gift card department. Replacement came directly from Blackhawk.

I had hoped that Coin would be interesting way to disguise cards, but many of us know how that went. That reminds me, I still need to get my refund for my pre-order......
Good. Glad you did.

Yah I never got into COIN and didnt see it as a viable way to do this anyway. It's hard enough to convince some clerks to do some of what we do, but this thing looked too techy for them.

Some have experimented with card imprinting machines like the ones scammers actually use but even those have a flaw: If a smart clerk looks at a receipt for a MO and sees the last 4 of the card used and then wants to see what you used, it will be different. I have heard of cases where they insist on refunds even if it went through and then you would also have to explain how and why it's different.

the pinch is coming from all sides lately... it's all a matter of luck at this point. There could be whole swaths of land that this MS of ours no longer works in anymore at some point.
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 10:54 pm
  #160  
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Originally Posted by fappi
metas are highly secure. They even thwart legit attempts to open them. They frequently put a glue strip right under the perforated pull tab so you have to tear the tab into tiny bits and use your fingernail to expose the barcode. Brilliant!
Yes and no. I have often brought mine up to the service desk and offered to help opening them for the clerks with the long nails lol. To do this I will take my license and pick a corner of the tabby over the barcode and just pull and tear through like a letter opener. Often times the thing lifts right up with great ease now exposing the barcode section. This makes the clerk happy so she doesnt have to pick at it and do em all.

Some metas have their tabby on the side of the packet and those kinds--often the gray-blue ones--pull right off without an issue. Or, if you bend the packet at the perfs, it may crack the tabby open and it can be lifted.

Either way I have come to learn that if I am planning to help the clerks by pulling the tabs myself, to do this in front of them so they know the cards are good.
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 11:13 pm
  #161  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
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Originally Posted by tallakahath
Similar to a post a coupla' pages back...

While visiting a friend in LA I stopped by a Vons and saw they had a promo for 'buy 2 variable loads, get a $15 coupon', and thought, 'great, I shop at vons for food and stuff'. The topmost card on the rack already had the cardboard ripped off; this concerned me but there were a ton more, so I took the first 10 off, grabbed 2, and replaced the other 10. I informed my cashier about the abnormality.

Anyway, bought both cards, both listed as 'activated' on the little stub/receipt, and the last 4 of each barcode (the decimal version of the barcode being printed on the upper right of the barcode itself) matched. I then went about my day.

While heading home from LA I stopped by a WM to do some business, and found out that one of my two new VGCs wasn't working (tender not valid). Heading back to my car I whipped out my smartphone and checked the balance on the 'bad' card... 'pin cannot be set'. That's an odd error to get, I thought. I called the number on the back of the card and input my card info, 'card not active'. That's not good.

Inspecting both cards, as well as using a VGC from Staples as a tertiary standard, I noticed something odd. So, when you hold up a 'good' card to the light, on the back both the black text and the white BG are 'shiny'; do this with a card and you'll know what I mean. On the 'bad' card, starting just above the decimal printout of the barcode, the card was oddly dull. Running my thumb over the barcode of the 'good' card felt a slightly raised texture to the barcode; this feeling was absent on the 'bad' card. Additionally, there were horizontal striations at the edges of the 'dull' region of the bad card.

As far as I can tell, someone (very carefully) opened the package, sanded/solvent'd off the old barcode and put a new one. When "my" card was activated, a different card was in fact activated. I'm now stuck with an unactivated card, a Vons that refuses to help me by phone, a sympathetic but powerless-to-help-me-without-a-police-report CSR from metabank, and I'm out $500 until this gets fixed.

I guess the takehome is that the thieves are getting more sophisticated, 'cause this goes beyond any 'sticker on the barcode' behavior.
tallakahath,

I don't think this scammer opened your package. He doesn't need to switch the card inside the package if he is altering the bar code. He needs the barcode you are activating to pair with the car he has in hand. What I'm saying is that scammers either:

a) Switch the card inside the package
b) Switch the barcode in the package

They don't need to do BOTH. Taking the card out of the package represents a different set of challenges than changing the barcode in the package. I would think that changing the barcode is a better scam, since it would be harder to detect, if done right.

Me, I always check the balance of my OVs as soon as I buy. I've never had a card not show the correct balance within 5 minutes (buy at WAG most of the times).
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Old Sep 21, 2014, 11:24 pm
  #162  
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One could also be sure to always check the store receipts to make sure the meta bc last 4 matches the numbers on the receipts.
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Old Sep 22, 2014, 12:19 am
  #163  
 
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Originally Posted by Marathon Man
One could also be sure to always check the store receipts to make sure the meta bc last 4 matches the numbers on the receipts.
That is what I do.
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Old Sep 22, 2014, 1:03 am
  #164  
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
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Originally Posted by andres17
tallakahath,

I don't think this scammer opened your package. He doesn't need to switch the card inside the package if he is altering the bar code. He needs the barcode you are activating to pair with the car he has in hand. What I'm saying is that scammers either:

a) Switch the card inside the package
b) Switch the barcode in the package

They don't need to do BOTH. Taking the card out of the package represents a different set of challenges than changing the barcode in the package. I would think that changing the barcode is a better scam, since it would be harder to detect, if done right.

Me, I always check the balance of my OVs as soon as I buy. I've never had a card not show the correct balance within 5 minutes (buy at WAG most of the times).
This wasn't an OV, it was a Visa Gift Card. The barcode is on the card itself... I'm not sure what you mean. The card had been physically altered, thus, the card was (at some point) not 'securely' in the package. There is physical evidence of this on the card.

This is the type of packaging where the entire card is inside cardboard; a small window is torn open to reveal the barcode on the back of the actual debit card. This is scanned and the barcode is *supposed* to match the card itself. Now, I could see a scammer carefully opening the package, recording the barcode, then making themself a card with an identical magstripe/info and draining the card like that - the barcode now effectively goes to *two* cards. But this would thus activate the 'original' card as well. In my case, the 'original' card was never activated (but the last 4 on the activation slip matched the last 4 on/above the barcode - *some* card was activated).
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Old Sep 22, 2014, 10:18 pm
  #165  
 
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tallakahath,

I'm only familiar with OVs and their sister VGCs. Never seens a GC from another bank.

I don't understand what you mean by "the barcode is on the card itself". That doesn't make sense to me. How can the cashier scan the barcode? Unless there is a clear window on the package that exposes the part of the gift card so the cashier can scan the barcode.

Can anyone explain what is the difference between OVs (VGCs) packaging, and activation process, and other cards like Metas, etc? Maybe the scams work differently depending on the gc flavor.
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