Protect Yourself From Gift Card Scams

Services for Real Estate Pros with Inc

So maybe Christmas now means the very predictable gift card swap, but hey, who can’t use a gift card? But beware, there are a ton of scams. This includes physical, not just digital, gift cards.

Regardless of who gave you the card, you should always practice security measures. Below are two common ways that fraudsters operate.

Transform Gift Card to Cash Twice.

If someone gives you a $200 gift card to an electronics store and then it’s stolen, you technically have lost money, as this is the same as someone stealing a wad of cash from your pocket.

Nevertheless, you’ll feel the loss just as much. Crooks who steal gift cards have numerous ways of using them.

  • Joe Thief has plans on buying a $200 item with your stolen gift card from your gym locker.
  • But first he places an ad for the card online, pricing it at a big discount of $130 saying he doesn’t need anything, he just needs money.
  • Someone out there spots this deal and sends Joe the money via PayPal or Venmo.
  • Joe then uses the $200 gift card to buy an item and sells it on eBay
  • And he just netted $130 on selling a stolen gift card that he never shipped.

Infiltration of Online Gift Card Accounts

Joe Thief might also use a computer program called a botnet to get into an online gift card account.

  • You must log into your gift card account with characters.
  • Botnets also log into these accounts. Botnets are sent by Joe Thief to randomly guess your login characters with a brute force attack: a computerized creation of different permutations of numbers and letters – by the millions in a single attack.
  • The botnet just might get a hit – yours.

Here’s How to Protect Yourself

  • Be leery of deals posted online, in magazines or in person that seem too good to be true and are not advertised by reputable retailers.
  • Buy gift cards straight from the source.
  • Don’t buy gift cards at high traffic locations, at which it’s easier for Joe to conceal his tampering.
  • Change the card’s security code.
  • Create long and jumbled usernames and passwords to lessen the chance of a brute force hit.
  • The moment you suspect fraudulent activity, report it to the retailer.
  • Spend the card right away.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.


Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Nina Hollander 12/09/2018 01:00 PM
ActiveRain Community
online security
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Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

Seems everytime you turn around some scammer is looking to pocket your hard earned money. Thanks for sharing this about gift cards Robert. I'll be extra vigilant the next time I'm out shopping for a card for someone.

Dec 04, 2018 02:28 PM #3
Bob Ratliff
Robert Ratliff Realty - San Antonio, TX
"Sold with Bob"

Great tips you have listed to protect against those kind of scams especially this time of year.

Dec 05, 2018 02:57 AM #4
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Thank you for sharing the great tips. I learned something new from your post 

Dec 05, 2018 04:05 AM #5
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Robert- another reason to add to my love/hate relationship with gift cards!  

Dec 05, 2018 08:04 AM #6
Terry McCarley
REMAX Realty Team - Cape Coral FL - Cape Coral, FL

Great advice!  Congratulations on the much deserved featured post

Dec 06, 2018 05:56 AM #7
Anne Corbin
Fritz Realty LLC - Spotsylvania, VA
Serving Lake Anna & Central Virginia

If it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is, especially with deals between strangers. Thanks for the reminder.

Dec 06, 2018 09:15 AM #8
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

I find the biggest gift card scam is the card itself. How many millions of dollars never get spent by the recipient?

Dec 07, 2018 11:48 AM #9
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224


                                      Thank you, Robert. 

Dec 08, 2018 05:47 PM #10
Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage | Charlotte, NC - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

Good morning, Robert. An excellent and timely post as the holiday season ramps up.

Dec 09, 2018 04:34 AM #11
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Robert. You always scare me but this one is very sad too.

Dec 09, 2018 05:11 AM #12
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Robert Siciliano,

Thank you for this timely we all should read and take seriously. I try and stay away from gift cards and I like to discover what someone wants and make sure they are opening something appreciated. I find gift cards so impersonal but sometimes it is the best thing to give.

Dec 09, 2018 05:56 AM #13
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Why give a gift card when you can give a check? I've never really understood that. Both are impersonal - you didn't have to put a lot of thought into what someone might want.

Dec 09, 2018 01:58 PM #14
Kevin J. May
Florida Supreme Realty - Hobe Sound, FL
Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida

This past year more attempts have been made and the practice isn't going away anytime soon. I'm always leary about giving gift cards and receiving them also. Your final statement is how I try to stay safe. Thank You Robert!

Dec 09, 2018 03:10 PM #15
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

Thanks for the excellent advice, Robert.

Gift cards can become the gift that keeps on taking.


With advances in technology, there are even more ways that crooks can take advantage of us if we are not watchful.

Dec 09, 2018 03:12 PM #16
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Robert,

Never been a fan of gift cards since I received my first & had over $10 in fees for not spending the entire amount in one place. I make my own coupons or give cash.

Dec 09, 2018 03:43 PM #17
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Great advice, Robert Siciliano. I've pretty much given up using gift cards to others, but do get some. Doing as you suggest will only help!


Dec 09, 2018 08:09 PM #18
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

These are good tips. I'm not giving any gift cards this year, but will keep this in mind in case I get some!

Dec 10, 2018 03:18 AM #19
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

Great information..unfortunate that it is necessary

Dec 10, 2018 08:22 PM #20
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

The only gift cards I'm buying this year are two and they are coming from the source. I would never trust a card sold by a stranger.

Dec 11, 2018 10:52 AM #21
Michelle Finnamore

great advice here today that I will share with my clients and my family

Dec 11, 2018 11:19 AM #22
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