Warning: Scammers putting fake barcodes on gift cards

Published: Jul. 17, 2019 at 6:25 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) -It's something many of us pick up while we're on the go- a gift card for a friend or relative if they have a special occasion coming up.

The cards are usually on display near checkout to make it easy. But scammers have managed to get a leg up on it, giving them access to your money.

The Better Business Bureau of North Alabama says pay attention before you buy one.

"Scammers are printing out their own bar codes, laminating them and putting them on top of the actual gift card barcode," explained Julia Cherry, Director of Communications for the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama.

They slip the fake barcode onto the gift card, covering the real barcode. When the card is activated, the money goes to the scammer's card instead of the one being purchased.

"Make sure you're not just pulling off the first one you see. Try to get one in the middle or the back. Even then, there's no guarantee that it hasn't been tampered with so make sure you're closing inspecting all gift cards," Cherry said.

Even if it’s from a store you’ve shopped at before without any problems, that doesn’t mean that a scammer hasn’t decided to go in and place those fake barcodes on gift cards, including the ones in the cardboard sleeves.

“Any time you’re spending your money on gift cards, you need to inspect them and if anything looks suspicious, pick another one. You just need to safeguard yourself and if anything looks suspicious, don’t do it,” stated Nick Vonderan with the Alabama Securities Commission.

It's already happened in Montgomery and the Better Business Bureau wants to get the word across the state.

"Ask the person you're checking out with if you can open it and see if it has an actual bar code on it before you buy it because no one wants to buy a gift card as a gift and end up getting all of their money stolen," Cherry added.

In a message posted on Facebook, Kandi Tucker said she was given a Visa gift card that was purchased from the CVS Pharmacy location off Zelda Road in Montgomery.

When she tried to activate the card to use the money, the card registered a zero balance. Tucker says when she alerted management at CVS she was told it's a scam they've been monitoring.

Under Tucker's post, several commented about having had similar experiences.

Garet Smitherman, vice president of operations for the BBB serving Central and South Alabama, says the office was first alerted to scams involving people copying barcode numbers off gift cards and using the numbers to access money on the card. They'd make purchases using the gift card before the original buyer could make any purchases.

The new barcode scam is something Smitherman believes operators at his office may have received calls about. He also says it's something they're monitoring, but because it's not a business operation, they can't accept complaints.

He also urged shoppers to closely check the back of your gift card before you buy it. Make sure it hasn’t been tampered with and no labels have been added.

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