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Gift card balance drained before used, how hackers do it

Visa Gift Card
Posted at 12:28 AM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 08:04:55-05

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — If the holidays treated you well then you might find yourself lucky enough to still have gift cards to use, but you might want to check the balance before going to shop.

Kathy Stokes, AARP's Director of Fraud Prevention Programs, said there have been situations where people will walk to the rack of gift cards in a store and quietly grab a stack. They will then record all the card's information. If any PIN number or code on the card needs to be scratched off, a hacker will scratch it off, copy the number, then put another silver scratch off sticker over the number. Those stickers are sold online, and it makes the gift card look as good as new.

Stokes said the hackers than have technology to track when the card is activated. Once alerted that it's activated, the thieves will drain it clean.

Pamela Woestendiek, of Williamsville, thinks it happened to her on a Visa Vanilla gift card that she got for her birthday in November.

"I got the card out of my wallet, and the lady said the card was declined," explained Woestendiek, who learned of her zero balance while purchasing sneakers.

Woestendiek, a nurse of almost four decades, learned her gift card had no more money on it, even though she never used it.

The card's history showed there were $50 worth of Google Music purchases, before she even received it!

When calls and emails to Visa weren't returned, Woestendiek emailed 7 Problem Solvers for help.

7 Problem Solver Michael Schwartz contacted Stokes who suggested the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which offers help and guidance. You can also call 877-908-3360 for help.

Woestendiek said she recently got in touch with a Visa representative who filed a claim to hopefully get her the entire $50 back.

Stokes advises the following for gift cards:

  • Inspect before you purchase, to make sure the packaging and scratch off areas aren't damaged
  • Buying a gift card online is safer
  • If purchasing a gift card in a store, take one from the back
  • If someone asks for payment through gift cards, "It is ALWAYS a scam"

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