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Holiday Gift Card Shoppers Beware: Scammers Targeting Unwary Buyers

As the holiday season prompts a surge in gift card purchases, shoppers are urged to exercise caution and scrutinize cards closely before making a purchase. A growing trend of fraud has emerged, with scammers recording claim codes from gift cards, subsequently depleting the funds before the intended recipients have a chance to use them. The scam has affected cities nationwide, including incidents reported in Houston.

The warning comes as victims recount their experiences, shedding light on the evolving tactics employed by these criminals. One Houston grandmother, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared her recent encounter with the scam after purchasing Amazon gift cards, totaling $150, during a routine trip to her local grocery store in October. Unbeknownst to her, three of these cards, intended as gifts for her grandkids on Thanksgiving, had fallen victim to the scam.

Shortly after the holiday, the grandmother received an unexpected call from her grandkids, informing her that the gift cards were not functional. Determined to rectify the situation, she initiated a series of calls, beginning with Amazon customer service. However, she was met with disappointment as they informed her that they couldn’t assist and suggested returning to the store of purchase.

Returning to the Kroger store at the intersection of Kirby and Main Street, the grandmother shared her predicament, only to be met with a disheartening response: “Yeah, that happens.”

This scenario reflects a nationwide phenomenon where thieves surreptitiously acquire gift card claim codes and patiently await unsuspecting shoppers to make purchases. The activation of the card during the transaction triggers the thieves to swiftly spend the funds, leaving the legitimate cardholder with worthless cards.

“I have bought thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of cards,” the grandmother expressed. “This is the first problem I’ve had. I’ve been lucky.”

As cases of this scam continue to surface, consumers are advised to remain vigilant, inspect gift cards thoroughly, and report any suspicious activity promptly. Authorities emphasize the importance of raising awareness about these scams to safeguard individuals from falling victim during the festive season.