Prepaid credit card buyers under attack – Beware!

Buyers of pre-paid credit cards in the form of retailer’s gift cards are under attack this holiday season! These cards have been the ultimate in convenience for friends and family members who want to give a gift but can’t decide exactly what would please. But buying them this year could be risky. Your intended gift of a shopping spree could be nothing but a huge disappointment.

The threat comes from two directions: First – thieves. Second – the danger of issuing stores going out of business before the cards can be redeemed.

Ever imaginative, thieves have devised several ways to part you from your cash. Some are selling cards on line that have no funds loaded into them at all. Beware of buying from any but an established retailer whom you trust. And even then, go on line to assure yourself that the card is loaded before giving it as a gift.

Other thieves are using cell phones to photograph the numbers on unsold cards hanging in store displays. Then they monitor those card numbers on line until they are purchased and loaded. Once loaded, they spend them on line long before the gift recipient ever sees them. Since these pre-paid credit cards are sold for cash, with no paperwork, authorities have no way to track legal ownership.

In some cases, the theft occurs before the card buyer leaves the store. Swift-fingered employees in some stores have devised a slight-of-hand trick to sell the card, load it with the proper amount, and then switch the card with an empty one before handing it to the buyer.

The customer goes home smiling and happily gift wraps a worthless card while the store employee spends the money.

In addition to this threat is the fact that some stores that will soon be out of business are still selling gift cards. Before you choose a store and buy a card, do a search on line. See if the store is solvent or if you can expect it to close immediately after the Christmas rush.

A couple of ways do exist to protect yourself when buying these pre-paid credit cards in stores. First, choose cards that are encased in plastic wrap with the numbers on the back hidden from prying eyes. Avoid the racks of individual cards. If that’s impossible, pull them off the rack and choose a card from the back, or ask the store clerk if there are cards that have not yet been on display.

Next, keep your eyes on the card while the clerk is loading it. Most of us tend to be distracted, making it easy for a crook to pull a switch. Next, while you still have your receipt, walk to the service desk and have the amount checked. Barring that, check it on line when you get home.

Thieves don’t care that this is the Christmas season, so protect yourself.

One Response to “Prepaid credit card buyers under attack – Beware!”

  1. rosy says:


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