The gift that gives nothing: Beware of fake barcodes on gift cards

Last Updated: March 19, 2024By Tags: ,

A friend’s or loved one’s birthday or anniversary pops up on your calendar, so you shop for an appropriate greeting card and grab a gift card to tuck inside. Sadly, there is one more task required before you take your purchases to the checkout line: you need to check the barcode on the gift card first. If you aren’t mindful, you might be giving your friend or loved one nothing but the card itself.

Scurrilous thieves are surreptitiously affixing fake barcode stickers over the real barcodes printed on the back of gift cards in store racks. And the cards racked next to the checkout line aren’t any safer. Imagine that you unwittingly purchased a compromised gift card, guess where the money goes after the cashier scans it? If you guessed that the money goes directly into the scammer’s gift card account, you are correct. You won’t know that you’ve been cheated until your friend or loved one contacts you, informing you that the gift card had a zero balance. How embarrassing!

What you can do to protect yourself

With some gift cards, you can make sure the number of the barcode matches the number on the packaging. Or you can feel or gently scratch the barcode on the gift card prior to purchase. Do not purchase if the barcode is on a sticker, or if the package holding it is ripped, wrinkled, bent or appears tampered with, the Better Business Bureau recommends.

More information from the FBI

Protecting Yourself From Fake Barcodes on Gift Cards

Gift cards have become a staple for any special occasion. They are readily available at any store for our shopping ease. Scammers have come up with another way to take money from the gift cards we purchase for family and friends.

Scammers place fake barcodes on the back of real gift card barcodes in the stores. When you purchase the card, the cashier scans the fake barcode at the checkout, which quietly pushes your money into the scammer’s gift card account, leaving you with a zero balance.


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