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A stack of gift cards and cash

With gift cards once again topping the list of most-requested holiday gifts, there’s a good chance you’ll be shopping for at least one of them this holiday season. Unfortunately, gift cards have become very popular with scammers and thieves as well. Here are some ways you can avoid gift card scams and help ensure the recipient of the gift card is getting what you intended to give.

Check for Signs of Tampering

Thoroughly inspect the front and back of the gift card, as well as the gift card packaging, to detect any signs of tampering. Pay special attention to the magnetic strip and the scratch-off area for the PIN number. If anything appears out of the ordinary, choose a different card. Look for things like a visible PIN or damaged packaging.

Buy from Reputable Retailers Only

Though it’s tempting to try to score a deal on high-value gift cards in online auctions, resist the temptation. There’s a good chance the card may be used, stolen or counterfeit and ultimately worth nothing when you try to redeem it.

 Keep the Receipt

Watch the cashier scan the card, be sure the amount they enter matches what you pay and keep the receipt. Include the receipt along with the card when you give it to the recipient, so they have recourse if the card doesn’t scan correctly.

Register the Gift Card

More and more retailers allow recipients to register gift cards online as a way to track the balance. This also allows for increased security by allowing the user to report if the card is lost or stolen.

Don’t Send Gift Cards through the Mail

If you’re giving gift cards to far away friends or relatives, avoid mailing them yourself. Purchase gift cards directly on the retailer’s website and let them ship it instead. If you must ship them yourself, use a padded envelope or small box, so mail thieves can’t readily detect the package contents.

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