Police warn holiday shoppers about cards being stolen: What you need to know about the gift card scam?


Card draining is a gift card scam that is being warned about by police across the country as many people buy gift cards as Christmas presents.

People who have bought or plan to buy gift cards from stores are being told to be careful and look out for any signs of tampering, like scuff marks or scratches near the bar code on the back of the card.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office said last week that a guy from California was arrested for tampering with gift cards at a Target store in Sacramento.

It is said that Ningning Sun was caught with more than 5,000 gift cards from Apple and Target.

The sheriff’s office said that Sun was involved in a gift card scam that happened in California and several other states across the country.

“Victims are completely unaware it is happening, and the money is often siphoned to an off-shore account within seconds,” stated the sheriff’s office.

“These operations are very sophisticated and modifications to the gift cards are often virtually undetectable, even to the trained eye,” the sheriff’s office stated.

The sheriff’s office has also said that people shouldn’t buy gift cards at all.

The New Britain Township Police Department in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, also told the public about the scam on December 1.

The notice said that cops were looking into two reports of gift card theft involving more than 100 Visa Vanilla and Apple gift cards at Bucks County Giant stores.

Police in New Britain Township tell people to check all gift card packages for signs of tampering.

“If a gift card is suspected to have been tampered with or opened, do not buy it and bring it to the store manager or service desk,” the notice explains.

How does the trap that drains your card work?

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office says that the card draining scam involves changing the bar codes on gift cards so that the money that is put on them can be stolen.

Police in Sacramento said Sun was acting strangely near the gift cards in the payment areas of a Sacramento Target store before he was caught.

“Detectives observed him placing all the gift cards on a rack inside his jacket, then replacing the gift cards with another set of seemingly identical ones,” stated the sheriff’s office. Sun was stopped as he tried to leave the store with the stolen gift cards.

Based on an Instagram video from the Pinole Police Department in Pinole, California, the scammers take gift cards out of sealed envelopes and cut off the code that the recipient needs to access the card.

How to keep your gift cards safe from being stolen

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office says the following will keep you safe from this scam:

  • The gift card should be sealed, and the protected cover and tape over the pin should still be in place.
  • Make sure it doesn’t look like the gift card has been messed with.
  • Keep the store ticket in case it turns out that the gift card you bought has been stolen.
  • If you buy a gift card and later find out it has been stolen, you should contact the gift card company right away to have the card frozen and to get your money back.
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