PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

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Kennedy
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PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Kennedy »

I bought two Walmart gift cards at Walmart in the same transaction right before Christmas. I tried to use them at a Walmart on a later date and found that both had zero balances.

Walmart customer service printed out transaction histories for the cards, and both revealed a similar pattern. Two days after I purchased the cards at Walmart Store A, the balance was checked (not by me) at Walmart Store B. One day after that, the balances were drained at Walmart Store C (for one card) and D (for the other card). All four Walmart stores were in my same metropolitan area.

I called the number on the back of the cards, and the agent asked me some questions and then sent me an email requesting that I respond with a picture of the gift cards and my receipt. After doing so, I was emailed a replacement "card" for my total loss within a couple of hours. Thankfully, I was made whole within six hours of making the first call to Walmart.

This is how I think it went down: I believe someone grabbed a bunch of empty, inactivated gift cards from the rack and removed them from the store. The original scrape-off strips that covered the last 4 digits of the gift card number as well as the PIN were removed, the numbers recorded and then new strips (that looked like the original) were applied. The cards were returned to the Walmart gift card rack and then the numbers monitored (via the "check my balance" option on the Walmart website) to determine if/when someone purchases the cards and loads money to them.

After receiving a positive "hit" after I purchased and loaded the cards, the person used a machine to program my cards' information onto secondary cards and then used the cards to buy whatever at a Walmart store.

After figuring out the probable scheme, I looked at the two drained gift cards and noted some subtle irregularities. One had the scrape-off strip applied slightly lower than what would be expected. In fact, it ever-so-slightly covered the very top of the bar code below. The other had an irregularity that would have been impossible to note without purchasing the card and scraping off the strip. With regard to this second card, the scrape-off strip was applied just off center enough so the last four digits of the card number and the PIN were slightly off-center (top to bottom) than what would be expected if the strip had been applied by the manufacturer in an automated manner.

I should note that the two cards I purchased had different fronts (such as a Christmas tree, Seasons Greetings...) and, as such, were taken from different areas of the gift card rack. I mention this because there must have been numerous cards impacted, otherwise it would be quite the coincidence that I would have happened to select and purchase the only two compromised cards, which were on different areas of the gift card rack.

Here's my plan for the future:
1) Avoid buying gift cards as much as possible.
2) Buy gift cards at the customer service desk (hopefully minimizing access to the blank cards for mischief) rather than select cards off the gift card rack.
3) Retain the original receipt as I do not believe Walmart would have made me whole had I not had it.
TravelGeek
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by TravelGeek »

What you describe is very likely what happened. I have seen similar stories on Flyertalk for years. I am sorry you fell victim to this scam, and I am glad Walmart made you whole without too much trouble. Thank you for sharing the PSA.

Not sure what the purpose of your purchase was (time-shifting spend for credit card signup bonus, perhaps?), but I usually only buy gift cards that I can immediately use to purchase something or load into my account (Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Starbucks).
criticalmass
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by criticalmass »

That's a typical scam, be very careful when buying gift cards off of a publicly accessible rack.

Another scam is breaking into your Walmart or other store account using the password you reused at another site that got hacked. Then they drain your gift cards on file at the store of their chiice or online.
surfstar
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by surfstar »

another reason to hate GCs

Just give cash. Want more security? Send cash via Venmo, Paypal, Zelle, etc.
Topic Author
Kennedy
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Kennedy »

TravelGeek wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 5:30 pm What you describe is very likely what happened. I have seen similar stories on Flyertalk for years. I am sorry you fell victim to this scam, and I am glad Walmart made you whole without too much trouble. Thank you for sharing the PSA.

Not sure what the purpose of your purchase was (time-shifting spend for credit card signup bonus, perhaps?), but I usually only buy gift cards that I can immediately use to purchase something or load into my account (Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Starbucks).
One of my credit cards had a promotion for 5x points per dollar spent at Walmart. I wasn't able to spend up to the limit organically before the last day of the promotion, so I used the card to buy Walmart gift cards for the balance to use at a later date.
rich126
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by rich126 »

surfstar wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 5:39 pm another reason to hate GCs

Just give cash. Want more security? Send cash via Venmo, Paypal, Zelle, etc.
I agree regarding gift cards. People lose them, don't spend all of the money on them, etc. I'm sure stores make out well with them.

I'm not a fan of some of the other services since they often require access to a bank account which I don't care for, or add fees for using a credit card.
IMO
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by IMO »

Thanks for posting a reasonable scenario on how the gift cards were fraudulently drained.

Unfortunately, asides from trying to help people on this site, this is something that will fall into the category of "buyer beware." The most helpful part is to provide someone the option to try to obtain a credit on the fraudulent card. I wonder though, how can someone prove that it wasn't themselves or wasn't the gift card recipient that wasn't actually using the gift card? Seems kind of hard to prove, doesn't it just come down to your word against theirs, so to speak? OP, how did you prove it wasn't you or someone you gave the card to that used the card?

Obviously, once the technology if determined to overcome the scratch off technology (the new scratch off cover) it is likely this will only become more and more commonplace. And the irony, it will not likely change the behavior of retailers, such as putting gift cards behind secured doors requiring the card to be physically retrieved and given out by an employee or developing some other technology to at least temporarily (until the criminals figure out how to overcome any new technology). Home Depot is supposed to link a "gift card/return merchandise card" from returns to a person's name requiring someone to show ID, however just the other day, I used a HD gift card/store credit card, but the teller didn't ask to see my ID (so much for that safeguard).

Essentially, just another none crime in our modern society. I've only once heard of someone being arrested for being in possession of a high number of fraudulent gift cards (and it was at a Walmart). "Buyer Beware...."
jhawktx
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by jhawktx »

I don't understand. Unless the supposed thief did a really professional job of replacing the strip it seems like you would have noticed it had been tampered with.
Monsterflockster
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Monsterflockster »

Kennedy wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 5:20 pm I bought two Walmart gift cards at Walmart in the same transaction right before Christmas. I tried to use them at a Walmart on a later date and found that both had zero balances.

Walmart customer service printed out transaction histories for the cards, and both revealed a similar pattern. Two days after I purchased the cards at Walmart Store A, the balance was checked (not by me) at Walmart Store B. One day after that, the balances were drained at Walmart Store C (for one card) and D (for the other card). All four Walmart stores were in my same metropolitan area.

I called the number on the back of the cards, and the agent asked me some questions and then sent me an email requesting that I respond with a picture of the gift cards and my receipt. After doing so, I was emailed a replacement "card" for my total loss within a couple of hours. Thankfully, I was made whole within six hours of making the first call to Walmart.

This is how I think it went down: I believe someone grabbed a bunch of empty, inactivated gift cards from the rack and removed them from the store. The original scrape-off strips that covered the last 4 digits of the gift card number as well as the PIN were removed, the numbers recorded and then new strips (that looked like the original) were applied. The cards were returned to the Walmart gift card rack and then the numbers monitored (via the "check my balance" option on the Walmart website) to determine if/when someone purchases the cards and loads money to them.

After receiving a positive "hit" after I purchased and loaded the cards, the person used a machine to program my cards' information onto secondary cards and then used the cards to buy whatever at a Walmart store.

After figuring out the probable scheme, I looked at the two drained gift cards and noted some subtle irregularities. One had the scrape-off strip applied slightly lower than what would be expected. In fact, it ever-so-slightly covered the very top of the bar code below. The other had an irregularity that would have been impossible to note without purchasing the card and scraping off the strip. With regard to this second card, the scrape-off strip was applied just off center enough so the last four digits of the card number and the PIN were slightly off-center (top to bottom) than what would be expected if the strip had been applied by the manufacturer in an automated manner.

I should note that the two cards I purchased had different fronts (such as a Christmas tree, Seasons Greetings...) and, as such, were taken from different areas of the gift card rack. I mention this because there must have been numerous cards impacted, otherwise it would be quite the coincidence that I would have happened to select and purchase the only two compromised cards, which were on different areas of the gift card rack.

Here's my plan for the future:
1) Avoid buying gift cards as much as possible.
2) Buy gift cards at the customer service desk (hopefully minimizing access to the blank cards for mischief) rather than select cards off the gift card rack.
3) Retain the original receipt as I do not believe Walmart would have made me whole had I not had it.
Happened to us with a wedding gift over 20 years ago. Crazy the organization that goes into something like this as it’s no doubt on a massive scale with many levels & roles to the scam.
ddurrett896
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by ddurrett896 »

Thanks for the heads up! I’ll grab from the back of the rack.
megabad
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by megabad »

Wait, does Walmart not enclose their gift cards in a protective envelope like everyone else for the high value cards? I don't understand how a scammer could get the card info? Unless it has RFID which I wouldn't think a gift card would? If the scammers carefully took each gift card out of the envelope and somehow managed to perfectly reseal them, then they should find another job because a lot of companies could use someone that skilled.
fsrph
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by fsrph »

megabad wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 9:37 pm Wait, does Walmart not enclose their gift cards in a protective envelope like everyone else for the high value cards? I don't understand how a scammer could get the card info? Unless it has RFID which I wouldn't think a gift card would? If the scammers carefully took each gift card out of the envelope and somehow managed to perfectly reseal them, then they should find another job because a lot of companies could use someone that skilled.
I'm not the OP but I've bought gift cards at Wal-Mart. They were just loose cards in stacks. No protective envelope.

Francis
"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get." | Dale Carnegie
megabad
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by megabad »

fsrph wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 9:42 pm
megabad wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 9:37 pm Wait, does Walmart not enclose their gift cards in a protective envelope like everyone else for the high value cards? I don't understand how a scammer could get the card info? Unless it has RFID which I wouldn't think a gift card would? If the scammers carefully took each gift card out of the envelope and somehow managed to perfectly reseal them, then they should find another job because a lot of companies could use someone that skilled.
I'm not the OP but I've bought gift cards at Wal-Mart. They were just loose cards in stacks. No protective envelope.

Francis
Lol, I actually couldn't believe this and had to look up a picture. It is so foolish it is hard to believe. I can see maybe leaving a few $20 out there, but it looks like they leave the unlimited value ones out there. The only time I see cards out of envelopes is when they keep them behind customer service desk which makes sense...you know...like Sam's Club...which is owned by....
Topic Author
Kennedy
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Kennedy »

jhawktx wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 8:57 pm I don't understand. Unless the supposed thief did a really professional job of replacing the strip it seems like you would have noticed it had been tampered with.
I took another look at the compromised cards and compared them to other Walmart gift cards I purchased from another Walmart store that were not compromised. The scratch-off strips look identical, with the exception of the one drained card that had the strip applied a little bit too low so that it covered the very top of the bar code below.

So... other than this placement issue, the thief did a professional job. I did a quick search on the Walmart website and found, ironically, that they sell scrach-off labels. Now these particular labels aren't the same ones as what Walmart uses on their gift cards, but I know I've seen these labels on other gift cards. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Zebra-0-25-x ... /245647805
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willthrill81
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by willthrill81 »

We saved close to $600 last year buying discounted gift cards, mostly on Raise and in conjunction with 1% cash back on Rakuten. We've only ever had an issue with one $25 card from Cracker Barrell; everything else has worked perfectly. There are risks with gift cards, but for us, they're well worth it.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
Topic Author
Kennedy
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Kennedy »

IMO wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 8:41 pm I wonder though, how can someone prove that it wasn't themselves or wasn't the gift card recipient that wasn't actually using the gift card? Seems kind of hard to prove, doesn't it just come down to your word against theirs, so to speak? OP, how did you prove it wasn't you or someone you gave the card to that used the card?

I was honestly surprised that receiving the replacement "card" was so easy. I figured I would have to sign a statement attesting that I hadn't used the card (or given the card to someone else to use), but I didn't.

During the brief initial phone call, I was asked my full name, email address, city and zip code in which I lived (but not the street address) as well as the gift card numbers. He also asked me in which city and state I purchased the cards. I wasn't asked for my mailing address or phone number although I'm sure they recorded the number from which I called from caller ID. The agent just asked me what happened, and I explained the situation. He put me on hold for a couple minutes so he could "research the card" and came back on and said there was evidence of fraud. (I assume he came to this conclusion by looking at the cards' history and noting what must be a common fraudulent pattern of the balance being checked at a Walmart and then the balance drained the next day at a different Walmart.)

The initial email asked only for a picture of the compromised cards and my receipt.

Upon receiving my email response with the requested pictures, the second email asked me to provide either my name, mailing address and phone number if I wanted a physical card mailed to me within 5-8 days or my name, email address and phone number if I wanted a replacement emailed to me.

I'm assuming Walmart could see from the receipt data the credit card (with my name) that was used to purchase the card. Maybe they also have a one-time freebie they'll throw someone if they haven't made any prior complaints about fraud.

I also assume the agent could quickly note the fraudulent placement of the strips when they examined the picture I sent to see that the card was tampered with. I guess they took a leap of faith that I wasn't the one who tampered with the card. I don't know.
jhawktx
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by jhawktx »

Kennedy wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 10:24 pm
IMO wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 8:41 pm I wonder though, how can someone prove that it wasn't themselves or wasn't the gift card recipient that wasn't actually using the gift card? Seems kind of hard to prove, doesn't it just come down to your word against theirs, so to speak? OP, how did you prove it wasn't you or someone you gave the card to that used the card?

I was honestly surprised that receiving the replacement "card" was so easy. I figured I would have to sign a statement attesting that I hadn't used the card (or given the card to someone else to use), but I didn't.

During the brief initial phone call, I was asked my full name, email address, city and zip code in which I lived (but not the street address) as well as the gift card numbers. He also asked me in which city and state I purchased the cards. I wasn't asked for my mailing address or phone number although I'm sure they recorded the number from which I called from caller ID. The agent just asked me what happened, and I explained the situation. He put me on hold for a couple minutes so he could "research the card" and came back on and said there was evidence of fraud. (I assume he came to this conclusion by looking at the cards' history and noting what must be a common fraudulent pattern of the balance being checked at a Walmart and then the balance drained the next day at a different Walmart.)

The initial email asked only for a picture of the compromised cards and my receipt.

Upon receiving my email response with the requested pictures, the second email asked me to provide either my name, mailing address and phone number if I wanted a physical card mailed to me within 5-8 days or my name, email address and phone number if I wanted a replacement emailed to me.

I'm assuming Walmart could see from the receipt data the credit card (with my name) that was used to purchase the card. Maybe they also have a one-time freebie they'll throw someone if they haven't made any prior complaints about fraud.

I also assume the agent could quickly note the fraudulent placement of the strips when they examined the picture I sent to see that the card was tampered with. I guess they took a leap of faith that I wasn't the one who tampered with the card. I don't know.
If the agent could "quickly note the fraudulent placement of the strips" from a picture no less, then why weren't you able to notice it by looking at the actual card itself?
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Kennedy
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Kennedy »

jhawktx wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 10:31 pm
Kennedy wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 10:24 pm
IMO wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 8:41 pm I wonder though, how can someone prove that it wasn't themselves or wasn't the gift card recipient that wasn't actually using the gift card? Seems kind of hard to prove, doesn't it just come down to your word against theirs, so to speak? OP, how did you prove it wasn't you or someone you gave the card to that used the card?



I also assume the agent could quickly note the fraudulent placement of the strips when they examined the picture I sent to see that the card was tampered with. I guess they took a leap of faith that I wasn't the one who tampered with the card. I don't know.
If the agent could "quickly note the fraudulent placement of the strips" from a picture no less, then why weren't you able to notice it by looking at the actual card itself?
Well...I do not work for Walmart's gift card fraud department and have never inspected a card for fraud previously. However, once I knew what to look for I could note the subtle problem with the strip placement.
carolinaman
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by carolinaman »

Sounds like an inside job. Some employee took the cards and then later replaced them. I cannot see how customer could have done the cards in bulk without being detected.
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

The thieves would not even need the pin nor to scrape off the covering.

Take a pile of wal mart cards.
Run each through a card reader.
Write the information on any mag stripe card.
Return the cards back to the Wal Mart rack.
Wait a month.
Buy something in the self check out line.

Use cards until one hits. repeat.

Mag stripe reader/writers are not expensive. Blank mag stripe cards or other gift cards are easy to come by. Heck....if for any reason the thief was stopped, he's got gift card from subway, amazon, home depot, sears.......
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Maverick3320
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Maverick3320 »

I've walked into Walgreens in some not-so-nice places in town and more than once I've seen some sketchy looking characters pull out wads - and I mean WADS, more cash than I've ever seen in my life - of cash to buy gift cards there. Each time, the clerk didn't bat an eye, and acted like it happened all the time.

It would be interesting to see all the different fraudulent ways that gift cards are used.
Maverick3320
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Maverick3320 »

Maverick3320 wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:03 am I've walked into Walgreens (I know, not Wal-Mart) in some not-so-nice places in town and more than once I've seen some sketchy looking characters pull out wads - and I mean WADS, more cash than I've ever seen in my life - of cash to buy gift cards there. Each time, the clerk didn't bat an eye, and acted like it happened all the time.

It would be interesting to see all the different fraudulent ways that gift cards are used.
bob60014
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by bob60014 »

carolinaman wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 8:45 am Sounds like an inside job. Some employee took the cards and then later replaced them. I cannot see how customer could have done the cards in bulk without being detected.
The cards have no value until activated and do not have theft strips. The thieves put as many cards as they can into their pockets or purse, which is easily done, and walk out the door. After manipulating the cards they walk back in and put them back on the rack. Simply done as it looks as if they are simply browsing the rack.
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lthenderson
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by lthenderson »

Had this happen to my oldest daughter gifted a gift card for Christmas one year by a well intentioned relative. Since then, if anyone gives us a gift card, I use it up immediately.

I have purchased gift cards for my nieces every year who live clear across the country and have always bought them online, mailed directly to their address. To my knowledge, none of them have ever been compromised so I assume purchasing them online eliminates the risks of having them on a kiosk in a store where others can pilfer them.
Samosa22
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Samosa22 »

jhawktx wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 10:31 pm
Kennedy wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 10:24 pm
IMO wrote: Wed Jan 06, 2021 8:41 pm I wonder though, how can someone prove that it wasn't themselves or wasn't the gift card recipient that wasn't actually using the gift card? Seems kind of hard to prove, doesn't it just come down to your word against theirs, so to speak? OP, how did you prove it wasn't you or someone you gave the card to that used the card?

I was honestly surprised that receiving the replacement "card" was so easy. I figured I would have to sign a statement attesting that I hadn't used the card (or given the card to someone else to use), but I didn't.

During the brief initial phone call, I was asked my full name, email address, city and zip code in which I lived (but not the street address) as well as the gift card numbers. He also asked me in which city and state I purchased the cards. I wasn't asked for my mailing address or phone number although I'm sure they recorded the number from which I called from caller ID. The agent just asked me what happened, and I explained the situation. He put me on hold for a couple minutes so he could "research the card" and came back on and said there was evidence of fraud. (I assume he came to this conclusion by looking at the cards' history and noting what must be a common fraudulent pattern of the balance being checked at a Walmart and then the balance drained the next day at a different Walmart.)

The initial email asked only for a picture of the compromised cards and my receipt.

Upon receiving my email response with the requested pictures, the second email asked me to provide either my name, mailing address and phone number if I wanted a physical card mailed to me within 5-8 days or my name, email address and phone number if I wanted a replacement emailed to me.

I'm assuming Walmart could see from the receipt data the credit card (with my name) that was used to purchase the card. Maybe they also have a one-time freebie they'll throw someone if they haven't made any prior complaints about fraud.

I also assume the agent could quickly note the fraudulent placement of the strips when they examined the picture I sent to see that the card was tampered with. I guess they took a leap of faith that I wasn't the one who tampered with the card. I don't know.
If the agent could "quickly note the fraudulent placement of the strips" from a picture no less, then why weren't you able to notice it by looking at the actual card itself?
Looks like we are interrogating OP now. I too am guilty of buying gift cards in the past without closely evaluating their originality because I wasn't aware of this type of fraud. I later learned that what I was doing wasn't a good practice. I am not surprised that people fall victim to these type of scams all the time.
Diversification is protection against ignorance - WB.
TravelGeek
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by TravelGeek »

Samosa22 wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 6:05 pm
Looks like we are interrogating OP now. I too am guilty of buying gift cards in the past without closely evaluating their originality because I wasn't aware of this type of fraud. I later learned that what I was doing wasn't a good practice. I am not surprised that people fall victim to these type of scams all the time.
Right. Simple logic tells me that no one would go through the trouble of manipulating cards if customers wouldn’t fall for the scam.
Katietsu
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by Katietsu »

I have a Chik Fil A card that has the PIN sticker at an angle. Not sure that the placement of those stickers is that conclusive.
IMO
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by IMO »

Maverick3320 wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:03 am I've walked into Walgreens in some not-so-nice places in town and more than once I've seen some sketchy looking characters pull out wads - and I mean WADS, more cash than I've ever seen in my life - of cash to buy gift cards there. Each time, the clerk didn't bat an eye, and acted like it happened all the time.

It would be interesting to see all the different fraudulent ways that gift cards are used.
Maybe the sketchy characters were being scammed that they would be losing their social security benefits and needed to send payments to the scammers via giftcards :D
Actually had an elderly in-law losing their mental faculties actually fall prey to that type of scam and went out and bought gift
cards, hard to believe I know. :oops:
IMO
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by IMO »

bob60014 wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:02 am
carolinaman wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 8:45 am Sounds like an inside job. Some employee took the cards and then later replaced them. I cannot see how customer could have done the cards in bulk without being detected.
The cards have no value until activated and do not have theft strips. The thieves put as many cards as they can into their pockets or purse, which is easily done, and walk out the door. After manipulating the cards they walk back in and put them back on the rack. Simply done as it looks as if they are simply browsing the rack.
Here's a good insider scam. Check out teller activates the card for the customer. Teller quickly gives the customer an unactivated card back. Teller gives card to their criminal boyfriend who spends the money asap, customer unknowingly gives unactivated card to their gson for xmas 3 weeks later.
RudyS
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Re: PSA: Walmart gift card fraudulently drained

Post by RudyS »

It isn't as nice socially, but I just write checks for gifts to kids and grandkids. That tells you why I still do paper checks.
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