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
Print Wikipost

Gift Card Fraud !!!

Old Jul 10, 2014, 7:17 pm
  #76  
 
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Originally Posted by rylan
Note to self: Do not buy any GCs while traveling to/through CA (or GA).
Honestly, that doesn't seem like a very rational approach to me.

Always examine any GC carefully before buying, keep your receipt, and load it soon (don't need to race to load it immediately, just don't sock-drawer it for weeks or months).

That should cover 99.9% of any issues you might encounter.
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Old Jul 11, 2014, 8:26 am
  #77  
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Oh I always inspect the GC packaging and the card itself and go dump it very shortly after purchase... but if you know if a region where fraud is rampant (Hemet now, ATL area back with the VRL etc) and have access to safer areas, might as well not even risk it.
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Old Jul 12, 2014, 11:40 pm
  #78  
 
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True, and I don't disagree. But "California" is a pretty large place and it seems a bit excessive to treat it all as a single, fraud-prone location.
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Old Jul 13, 2014, 4:41 am
  #79  
 
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For SoCal folks, just be especially careful around supermarkets in the San Diego/La Jolla area. Careful, very careful, inspection should help ward off most fraud cards. Also, try choosing from the back of the rack, rather than the front.
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Old Jul 13, 2014, 8:09 am
  #80  
 
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Due to the inability to use Vanillas at WM, I've switched to buying MetaBank Visas at Vons and Albertsons in SoCal. Yesterday, bought four of the older stock (all blue in upper right hand corner instead of the newer multi-color). All of their stock was the older series, so nothing so unusual there. I opened each in the parking lot, and three cards had the matching blue label and the typical sticky dots. One, however, had the multi-color label, no stickly dots, but double sided tape. In addition, the magnetic strip had tape residue on it (so much, it would not work on the card reader). No other signs of tampering (no label over bar code, and packaging was perfect). I immediately went back into the store, showed the cashier, and I decided best route was to spend any funds on the card before any funds could be withdrawn on any fraudulent, duplicate card (cashier had to manually type in card numbers). I bought a $500 Reloadit, for which I'll get reimbursed the fees by TMobile. So, yes, always check these cards as soon as possible.

I've been MSing in SoCal for over 2 years, I've purchased many $100,000s of Vanillas and Metabanks, and this was my first instance of a tampered card. So, I think it is still safe to go into the water, but just be cautious.
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Old Jul 13, 2014, 3:35 pm
  #81  
 
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Originally Posted by BigDawgFT
I've been MSing in SoCal for over 2 years, I've purchased many $100,000s of Vanillas and Metabanks, and this was my first instance of a tampered card. So, I think it is still safe to go into the water, but just be cautious.
I wonder how fast these crooks can reasonably figure out that a particular card has been activated. I take no chances--I buy mine at a SoCal Vons next door to a WM, so I'm vulnerable for less than 20 mins usually. Still feels like a hot potato, though!
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Old Jul 13, 2014, 3:57 pm
  #82  
 
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Originally Posted by nwflyboy
But "California" is a pretty large place and it seems a bit excessive to treat it all as a single, fraud-prone location.
Up here in No. CA scammers make their own cards (I'm sure in-store scams do occur) thereby limiting the opportunities for all of us as more and more stores are "Cash only" not only for gift cards but the squeeze is on for MOs also.

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article...cles/140719914
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Old Jul 13, 2014, 10:25 pm
  #83  
 
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Originally Posted by rylan
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?
What's important to note is that with Vanilla/Incomm at least, you may be out the funds (they claim I must have provided the card numbers to the bad guy, who they've identified but won't reveal) and have to go to Small Claims Court, even after reporting the matter to FDIC and having FDIC forward details to the state banking regulator (GA for Incomm).

I'm about to launch a Small Claims action to recover $1,500 in VR purchases from late February, after exhausting other avenues. What I want to know is whether anyone else has had to go this far....and what was the outcome?

Last edited by Explore; Jul 13, 2014 at 10:34 pm Reason: update
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Old Jul 14, 2014, 9:21 pm
  #84  
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Originally Posted by BigDawgFT
Due to the inability to use Vanillas at WM, I've switched to buying MetaBank Visas at Vons and Albertsons in SoCal. Yesterday, bought four of the older stock (all blue in upper right hand corner instead of the newer multi-color). All of their stock was the older series, so nothing so unusual there. I opened each in the parking lot, and three cards had the matching blue label and the typical sticky dots. One, however, had the multi-color label, no stickly dots, but double sided tape. In addition, the magnetic strip had tape residue on it (so much, it would not work on the card reader). No other signs of tampering (no label over bar code, and packaging was perfect). I immediately went back into the store, showed the cashier, and I decided best route was to spend any funds on the card before any funds could be withdrawn on any fraudulent, duplicate card (cashier had to manually type in card numbers). I bought a $500 Reloadit, for which I'll get reimbursed the fees by TMobile. So, yes, always check these cards as soon as possible.

I've been MSing in SoCal for over 2 years, I've purchased many $100,000s of Vanillas and Metabanks, and this was my first instance of a tampered card. So, I think it is still safe to go into the water, but just be cautious.

Thank you very much, just bought 2x$500 at Vons, opened in car, gummy residue on mag strip, remembered this thread, called meta immediately and spent 20 min cancelling both cards on the phone. 1-2 weeks to replace. Saved me some cache, really appreciate you sharing.
I inspected both cards very closely. Will not be shopping at Vons in University City area ever again.
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Old Jul 14, 2014, 10:10 pm
  #85  
 
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The way I read it Dawg considered the Lost Card Option which was basically what you did. Instead, he just spent the funds quicker than a thief likely could. Quick thinking.

Edit: BigDawg, most scams would wind up with the magnetic info not matching the barcode, and the digits on front not matching the barcode. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what happened, or more details please [hmmm, what if WM was right across the street or something, etc etc]

Last edited by zceuxbhjutf; Jul 15, 2014 at 12:42 am
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Old Jul 14, 2014, 10:20 pm
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Originally Posted by member7777
opened in car, gummy residue on mag strip, remembered this thread
got one of those last week
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Old Jul 14, 2014, 10:33 pm
  #87  
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Originally Posted by zceuxbhjutf
You're kinda not following along. The way I read it Dawg considered the Lost Card Option which was basically what you did. Instead, he just spent the funds quicker than a thief likely could. Quick thinking.
You're kind of a fja
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Old Jul 14, 2014, 11:00 pm
  #88  
 
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Originally Posted by zceuxbhjutf
You're kinda not following along. The way I read it Dawg considered the Lost Card Option which was basically what you did. Instead, he just spent the funds quicker than a thief likely could. Quick thinking.

Edit: BigDawg, most scams would wind up with the magnetic info not matching the barcode. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what happened, or more deails please [hmmm, what if WM was right across the street or something, etc etc]
I know the typical scam is a false bar code decal or the like on the card, so that when you activate "your" card, you are, in reality, activating the thief's card. In this case, no such decal, no evidence on the outside that the cardboard had been tampered with, but the card had been re-attached using double sided tape, and there was a glue or tape residue on the magnetic strip. I just did not want to take any chances, as this card had been tampered with. It was not "factory."
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Old Jul 15, 2014, 6:45 am
  #89  
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I have the same problem with a Meta bank gift card I purchased from a grocery store in so-cal last month. I already posted that in a previous thread.

I have purchased a US bank visa gift card from Ralphs and when I try to call to check the balance and set a PIN, automatic voice system wonít recognize the card number. I call the customer service and the agent said the card is not activated properly. She said, I have to fax the receipt and some other documents to their office. Due to my other experience I got very frustrated and also I was going out of the country the very next day of this incident.

The magnetic stripe has the same problem as others specified. There was not any indication of any tampering on the outside cover. I have called atleast 10 times and talk with different customer service agents. Some of them said they activated the card. When I checked the balance it wonít accept the number. At last after a day of frustration one agent was able to activate the card. Then the card reader wonít read the card. Even after I remove the gummy thing on the magnetic strip the card wonít work.

I donít want someone taking the money on the card like last time. So immediately I have to liquidate the card using another method. It is very scary to buy a gift card from a store in so-cal. I live near Hemet.

I want to make picture of the card and post it but I already removed and cleaned the thing on the magnetic stripe. One hint is normally there will be some soft glue on the card but this is specifically very hard and not soft substance on the magnetic stripe. Hope this helps
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Old Jul 15, 2014, 7:02 am
  #90  
 
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Originally Posted by Sam2014

I want to make picture of the card and post it but I already removed and cleaned the thing on the magnetic stripe. One hint is normally there will be some soft glue on the card but this is specifically very hard and not soft substance on the magnetic stripe. Hope this helps
Was there evidence on the outside packaging?
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