Law enforcement warn of gift card scam

As the holiday shopping season revs up, law enforcement agencies and the Better Business Bureau are reminding shoppers and retailers of just how good thieves can be in stealingCREDIT CARD information.

This time of the year, officials are focused on gift cards.

According to the National Retail Federation, gift cards are becoming more and more popular during the holiday season, shelling out billions of dollars in sales. Federal authorities and consumer advocates say some of those sales are made with stolenCREDIT CARDS.

“It’s a huge concern,” said Warren Clark, the president of the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York.

Here’s how it works — officials say thieves have been gettingCREDIT CARD INFORMATION online and creating fakeCREDIT CARDS. Then, with those fake cards they’re buying gift cards, just as if it’s any old purchase.

“Once you’ve gotA GIFT CARD, you can go into that store and it’s essentially like having cash at that store,” Clark said.

Authorities are not able to talk about any specific ongoing investigations happening locally relating to the gift card scam. But, they did point to one case in March of last year.

Four people from Buffalo were indicted for allegedly using fakeCREDIT CARDS to buy $19,500 worth of gift cards from a Walmart and a Rite Aid in Cleveland. Authorities say 39 gift cards were used, each worth $500.

The U.S. Secret Service has a message for those at the register.

“If someone comes in and they have three different credit cards and they say I want to buy $7,000 in gift cards I think that would raise my suspicion,” said Todd Laster, the special agent in charge at the U.S. Secret Service Buffalo office.

Officials say under these circumstances, cashiers should get the attention of their supervisor, especially if some of the cards are being denied.

Another good tip for retailers, check the last four digits of theCREDIT CARD NUMBER on the receipt and the card itself, to see if they match.

“Instead of just swiping theCREDIT CARD through your point of sale system and then assuming its valid transaction,” said U.S. Attorney William Hochul.

“If they don’t match I can guarantee you that it is fraud,” Laster said.


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