New York (CBS)
Gift cards are one of the most popular presents during the holidays. But criminals have figured out how to use the cards before you do.
Last year, Alex Stevenson told CBS News how a $200 gift card from Best Buy she received came up with a zero balance when she tried to use it.
The scam has been around for years., Laura Podesta reports.
Criminals copy numbers off gift cards on public displays. They scratch off the panels on the back to get the security code and put them back on the rack.
Once the card is bought and activated.. They drain the balance. They even use "zebra" stickers that cover up scratched-off security panels, so buyers don't realize the cards have been tampered with.
Jeff Blyskal from Consumer Reports says stores are taking steps to protect the cards, like using more secure packaging and placing them behind the counter. He recommends purchasing them online directly from the retailer.
And what if a gift card comes drained of its balance?
"Go back to the retailer and say you want your money back," Blyskal said.
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