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How to avoid gift card fraud

Friday - 12/23/2011, 5:59am  ET

Kate Ryan, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Gift cards are often the perfect solution for last-minute shoppers or for satisfying that impossible-to-please person on your gift list. But thieves have found gift cards attractive, and are using the cards in various scams.

How do the scams work?

"The crook gets these gift cards before they've been loaded with money. They copy the PIN number from the card, then they put it back on the rack, and they use it before you can," says Eric Friedman, director of Montgomery County's Office of Consumer Protection.

You can protect yourself from losing your card's value by doing the following:

  • Inspect the cards carefully. If there are any signs of tampering or re-packaging, you should skip it.
  • If you can you see the card's PIN number, don't take it.
  • Buy from the store of origin.
  • Buy from stores where the gift cards are kept behind the counter.

Fraud Guides offers more on ways to avoid getting taken when you're trying to give gift cards.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)