4 Investigates Alert: Avoiding gift card scams | KOB 4

4 Investigates Alert: Avoiding gift card scams

Colton Shone
Created: December 27, 2019 07:25 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gift cards are quick to buy, easy to give, and they can be used for almost anything – just make sure the gift card actually has money on it. Some people are finding that they're being used by thieves.

"I thought I was doing good by getting a head start before even Thanksgiving," said Fania Martinez. She had bought a couple of Amazon gift cards with about $500 loaded on each card. 


"When I bought the gift cards they were still in the package. The package was completely intact," Martinez said. "I've always been in the habit of double checking what amount is on what gift card. So I called Amazon to double check and when I called Amazon they said that both cards were already used. There was zero value on either card."

This all happened within an hour of buying the cards. Martinez returned to the Smith's where she purchased the gift cards, hoping to get her money back. She said a supervisor told her that gift card sales were final and she needed to call an 800 number. 

After Martinez called the store's corporate office, she reached out to Amazon directly. 

"They sent me an email stating they knew exactly who used it," she said. 

So what was going on? Amazon knew who used it, but wouldn't tell Martinez, citing privacy concerns. 

"Cruel is a great word to use because people are often buying these gift cards to give to their relatives, their family, their friends, and unbeknownst to them – their money is going to scammers," said Cholla Khoury with the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. 

"Usually what happens is somebody will go to a retail location, say, a grocery store where they will have a kiosk full of various gift cards, and a scammer will take the number off the back," Khoury said. "Oftentimes they'll scratch off the silver coating that hides that PIN, they'll take the number from the back of the PIN, and as soon as its activated, drain the balance." 

Martinez said she had no idea that scammers could do this, and she'll be extra careful going forward. 

"I'm going to seriously second guess whether I want to buy any kind of gift card," she said. "But one thing the Attorney General's Office told me was that it's best to try to get the gift cards from the middle or the back of the row of gift cards, even though that might frustrate the store because you're taking all the gift cards off the rack."

Good news – Martinez filed a report with the Attorney General's Office and after going back and forth with the grocery store and Amazon, she'll be getting her money back. 

Takeaways to remember:

  • Check the back of gift cards
  • Make sure gift cards are not tampered with
  • If you're at a gift card kiosk, rifle around and pick one from the back or in the middle

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