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


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:


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 Jun 27, 2014, 9:42 am
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Posts: 1,936
Originally Posted by Zgirl
the card was emptied at Rite Aid in Hemet 70 miles away
they all seem to be emptied at RA in Hemet
Alcibiades is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 9:45 am
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I am new to MS and buying gift cards. I just posted this because I don't want the crooks taking advantage of more people. I think Gift cards have some risks involved like any thing else.
Sam2014 is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 9:46 am
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Last edited by MileageAddict; Jun 30, 2014 at 8:16 am Reason: removed excessive punctuation
Sam2014 is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 10:00 am
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Iowa
Posts: 122
Originally Posted by Alcibiades
thieves cannot obtain adhesive/tack with the same texture/feel.
Not true. This isn't like trying to buy currency paper or something. They just have to get off their lazy butts and make some phone calls. If you play along like you're going to do a mass promo card mailing for your (fake) store, you can even get free samples and pick out the closest feel. That is, if you cared that much; anything is better than glue sticks. Clowns. For the amount of money they're stealing, it's worth taking a little extra time and doing it right. Does no one take pride in their work anymore?
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Old Jun 27, 2014, 10:01 am
Join Date: Sep 2011
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OP - thanks for posting your report.

For others to whom this may happen, instantly using such a card to buy an Amazon GC online for yourself or using Evolve Money (etc.) could be a way to cut the thieves off from getting the funds.

This report also helped remind me to open GCs in the parking lot after I buy them instead of waiting to get home/unloading destination.
FindAWay is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 10:09 am
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 572
Fraud with Visa in So Cal
Zgirl is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 10:20 am
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 437
What the hell... Why is the Hemet, CA police department and drug stores not on top of this problem?

It seems like a lot of the stories I read about fraud around the net always end up in Hemet, CA.
vinhboy is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 10:52 am
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 11
Had a similar issue from a card purchased at "al bert son's" in everett, WA last week. Difference here was they actually registered the card online and pumped the money through $89 transactions at expedia and some others through Google Wallet. All ran as a credit card. Caught it while it was happening so was able to save some of the cash on the card. Waiting for them to do a case so I can get made whole.

Not sure how they were able to figure out the pin and CSV code as it didn't appear the packaging was tampered with...but obviously it was.
warpork is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 11:03 am
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Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 51
PIN is the last four digit #. So easy

I called and disputed all transactions. But according to the card rep the investigation can take from 60 to 90 days.
Sam2014 is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 11:15 am
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Orange County, CA
Programs: Delta PM | US PP | Hilton Gold
Posts: 288
I'm a bit confused.

How are they unloading your card, pin based, if you physically have the card in your hand?
john doe iii is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 11:19 am
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Posts: 51
Great Question !

Is anyone know the answer ?
Sam2014 is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 11:33 am
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Posts: 1,324
Originally Posted by john doe iii
I'm a bit confused.

How are they unloading your card, pin based, if you physically have the card in your hand?
They made a copy of the electronic info on the strip and are using the copied strip on another card as a CC of use it online.
drminn is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 11:59 am
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 29
OP, thank you for bringing this up.

I think we should be
(1) very careful about the package when we purchase the card
(2) use/unload the card as soon as possible and do not stock a lot in hand
(3) keep all the receipt for each GC

If you do face a fraud issue, besides calling the card issuer and reporting to police, please also give a report here. That will benefit other MSers, and help to stop this fraud. The more detail you can post, the more helpful I think.
newdoct is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 12:00 pm
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 511
Originally Posted by drminn
They made a copy of the electronic info on the strip and are using the copied strip on another card as a CC of use it online.
Yeah - you can input any card's data onto another card's strip if you have a writer.

Basically what high end thieves do is buy any old cheapo card (like a gift card) at a store.

They then copy the stolen card's strip info onto that cheapo card's magnetic strip. Next they take an embossing machine and physically put raised numbers on that cheapo card and emboss a name which they have a fake identity for in case they get carded at the store.

Then, shopping spree. Easy peasy.
hamhead is offline  
Old Jun 27, 2014, 12:05 pm
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My guess is that must be occurring similar to how the Vanilla RL packs were being forged before... thief enters store and grabs gift cards and leaves... reads info from pack barcode for activation, opens pack, reads card info and creates duplicate/counterfeit card that looks the same but has blank/bad magnetic strip. Puts new fake card in reproduced packing that has original valid barcode to be scanned at register.

Unsuspecting customer buys new card, register scans and loads it and it gets activated. Fraudsters have script running to regularly check balance or helper at store who notifies them that someone bought the card and they go to drain it, while actual buyer can't use it due to invalid mag strip.

Something like this should be reported to the FBI.

EDIT: Why does this stuff always seem to occur in CA or around Atlanta?
rylan is offline  

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