Here’s how to protect yourself this holiday season

Cary, North Carolina — Be careful if you’re considering purchasing a gift card as a Christmas or holiday gift this year.

Shopping experts are warning of a scam happening this holiday season known as “gift card drain.” It’s a trick used to steal money from gift cards before you even have a chance to use them.

This tactic tricks shoppers into thinking they’re adding value to the card they’re purchasing, says Nicole Cordero of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Carolinas. However, he transfers the money to the scammer instead.

“One of the things that scammers do is they take different barcodes [and] “Put them over the barcodes on the back of the gift card,” Cordero said.

WRAL News asked Cordero what shoppers should do to protect themselves.

“[They are] “We’ll have to stop and look and see if the packaging is intact,” Cordero said. “Check if it’s torn or wrinkled where the barcode is and that the fraudster wasn’t there first.

Cordero also said shoppers should swipe their finger across the back of the gift card to see if there is a sticker on top.

Experts like Cordero urge shoppers to make sure there are no scratch marks on barcodes or security codes. It can save shoppers from losing hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Another helpful tip from safety experts: Buy gift cards near the register or behind the counter. Also, constantly check the balances.

Best Buy sales consultant Pawaii Bullock explained what happens if a shopper falls victim to a gift card burnout.

“Once our manager gets it, we report it, notify the police, settle the matter with them and figure out what to do to help our clients’ needs,” Bullock said.

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On Wednesday, shopper Peter Ritchon stopped by a Best Buy in Cary to do some holiday shopping. He said he was trying to offer specific gifts or money.

“It’s scary,” Ritchon said of the latest scam. “You get a gift, someone has spent money on it, you go buy something with it and the money is gone.

“Where did you go? Someone has already spent.” [It’s] Another example of financial fraud.”

a 2022 AARP Poll found Nearly one in four people gave or received gift cards that did not contain money.

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