Beware of gift card scams

Posted by Mark Raby

If you're like most people, you'll be getting a handful of gift cards this holiday season.

In fact, the National Retail Federation found that each holiday shopper is expected to spend around $155 on gift cards this year, an increase from $145 last year.

The total amount of money spent on gift cards will reach nearly $28 billion. But Trend Micro warns consumers that with such a huge market, there are bound to be scammers out there.

Perhaps the most obvious scam comes with online marketplaces like Ebay or Craigslist, where counterfeit or misrepresented gift cards can easily be sold to unsuspecting holiday shoppers.

In addition, Trend Micro says that buying gift cards in a store is also potentially problematic.

"We found thieves can enter a retail store like Best Buy, use a hand scanner to scan numbers from un-purchased gift cards and then monitor the retailer’s Website to see when a consumers purchased and activated those gift cards. Once activated, thieves can then use the gift cards as their own," said Trend Micro VP of consumer and small business marketing Tobias Lee.

Lee also pointed out that gift cards can be reprogrammed if anyone else gets their hands on your card.

So where's the safest place to buy a gift card? Online, at the retailer's official website.

But even if your gift card is perfectly safe, you still have to look out for things like fees and expiration dates. In fact, 17.4% of consumers say that fine print discourages them from buying gift cards.