Local News

Gift Cards Become Targets for Would-Be Thieves

Posted December 7, 2006

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— For shoppers, gift cards can make holiday buying easy and convenient. They're popular with Susan Brown's family.

"My family lives in Ohio, as does my husband's," Brown said. "So it's just easier for them to purchase a gift card and send to us, and then we go wherever we need to pick up the presents."

That convenience, though, is apparently playing into the hands of thieves. They have found a way to cash out gift cards before the owners even have a chance to go shopping.

"All types of theft are really prevalent nowadays," said Target store manager Durand Arnold.

Suspected thieves copy the numbers on the back of gift cards on display. Then they call the 1-800 line and punch in the numbers to see if the card is activated and what the available balance is. If the card was sold, chances are it's activated and it's fare game for purchases made online or over the phone.

While Arnold's store hasn't been hit, he warned consumers to treat their gift cards like cash and take steps to secure them.

"That's why it's imperative that you write down the numbers on your gift card and keep your receipts, just in case someone is out there trying to get to it," Arnold said.

When WRAL told Graham about the gift card scam, she said it may change the way she shops the next time she picks one up.

"Maybe I'll try to buy one that's at the cash register or something, instead of one…where anyone can walk by and write down the number," Graham said.

Thieves have hit other states like Washington and Ohio, as well as parts of the Midwest. Local law enforcement agencies told WRAL that there have been no reports of the scam happening in the Triangle so far.
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