Is Your Christmas Gift Card Stolen Property?

Last-minute Holiday shopping? We are too, but so are cyber criminals. Take the time to read this, or your gift card might be stolen before you even buy it.

If you’re like me, you are probably feeling bad that your brother-in-law got you a present, so now you have to get him a present, but you don’t know what to get him… it’s basically a Christmas conundrum that’s older than Santa himself (wait, is that possible?). That’s why they invented the gift card. It’s so easy! Does he like movies? Movie theater gift card. Does he wear a Cabela’s shirt? Cabelas gift card. You can even give a Visa or AMEX gift card, it removes the already minimized stress of choosing a gift card he likes! Stick it in an envelope, and give it to him. Done!

What happens when someone steals your gift card. though? I’m not talking about someone swiping it from you in the parking lot, or your naughty-list little cousin taking it when you’re distracted by grandma’s fudge. I’m talking about the actual monetary value being stolen from the card. Is your brother-in-law out of luck?

Brian Krebs just reported on his blog,, that gift card theft is becoming more common than ever, and this holiday season is a record breaker. How are the thieves doing it? Flint Gatrell, a Colorado local, tried to purchase some Sam’s Club gift cards, and here is what he found:

“I just identified five fraudulent gift cards on display at my local Wal-Mart,” Gatrell said. “They each had their stickers covering their codes peeled back and replaced. I can only guess that the thieves call the service number to monitor the balances, and try to consume them before the victims can.  I’m just glad I thought to check!”

Notice the top two cards appear to be tampered with. The bottom is still intact, but ⅔ of gift cards were stolen before he even purchased them! Is there a trend? Are all gift cards going to be stolen like this? Will your brother-in-law have to settle for a cheesy t-shirt of Bob Ross?

I know what you’re thinking. Gift cards need to be purchased at the register before they can be activated! Well, you’re right. But by peeling back the scratch-off sticker, and taking a quick pic of the back, a thief can have all the info they need to use that card as soon as you activate it. They just have to check the balance, and they don’t need a receipt for that.

Kevin Morrison, a senior market analyst at Aite Group, commented, saying that “Store employees are instructed to look for abnormalities at the [register] but this happens [more] around the holiday season as attention spans tend to shorten,” he said. “While gift card packaging has improved and some safeguards put in place, fraudsters look for the weakest link and hit hard when they find one.”

Our advice for your last-minute holiday gifts? Buy an e-gift card. Or, choose one that comes in blister packaging, because that deters even people that want to buy gift cards. Protect your wallet and your relationship with your in-laws. Happy Holidays from the cyber security team here at Fibernet!