Saturday December 3rd, 2022 6:08PM

Hall County Sheriff's Office warns shoppers of gift card scams

By Natalie Sadler Anchor/Reporter
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office is warning shoppers to be wary of gift card scams this holiday season. The Hall County Sheriff’s Office said this specific type of scam has not been reported yet in Hall County, but investigators from different counties have warned Hall County authorities that this scam may be coming.
Consumers should be especially cautious when purchasing gift cards from racks in big box stores.
“If you run to one of the big box stores, for example, and you pick up a card, they're all right there,” Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman B.J. Williams said. “There are a lot of different choices. And so it's easy for the scammers to kind of paw through those as well and do this latest gift card scam that we've become aware of.”
Once the scammer has selected a particular gift card, Williams said the scammer will print their own barcodes and place the faulty code over the legitimate retailer barcode.
“So when the card is activated, the money actually is added to an existing card that's owned by the scammer instead of the card that's being purchased,” Williams said. “So what you have here is two people being impacted. The buyer is ripped off and then the gift card recipient gets a card with no value. And of course, that's a little bit embarrassing to go to redeem that gift card and find out that it's not valid.”
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office has a few tips that holiday shoppers should keep in mind while gift card hunting.
A consumer should always inspect the back of a gift card for signs of tampering. 
“Look and see if there's a barcode sticker over the barcode,” Williams said. “Of course with some of the cards, like the Visa, MasterCard, or American Express gift cards, they actually have a perforated portion that has to be peeled back at the cash register. That's not the case, though, with a lot of other gift cards.”
Next, check the back of the gift card’s packaging for the barcode number. The barcode number should match the number on the gift card package.
“Then, this might sound a little bit cheesy, but select a gift card from the middle or the back of the rack because they're less likely to have been tampered with,” Williams said. “Again, just be really observant. It's a shame that this kind of thing happens, but it does. People are always unfortunately looking at ways to rip people off, and shoppers tend to be in a hurry. They are not as attentive as maybe they should be.”
If you or a family member are victimized by this scam, contact the company that issued the card. You are also encouraged to file a report with law enforcement, but this must be done in the same jurisdiction where the card was purchased.
Williams suggested sticking to small businesses this holiday season, which are less likely to attract scammers’ attention. Additionally, many big box stores are currently short-staffed. This means there are not enough employees who can keep an eye on gift card racks.
“Especially in Hall County, we have a lot of great small businesses,” Williams said. “That's probably a great place to buy a gift certificate. If you know you're looking for something specialized, those folks can buy a gift certificate. They know you, you know them. And they probably have a better handle on the gift cards or gift certificates that they sell than the big box stores do.”
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