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Police issue warning about gift card scam in Bucks, Montgomery counties

Police warning residents to stay alert of porch pirates in Camden County
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BUCKS COUNTY (CBS) -- If you're giving or receiving gift cards this holiday season, police in Bucks County want you to take steps to avoid getting scammed.

New Britain Township Police issued a notice earlier this month about a nationwide gift card scam called "card draining," where offenders will steal gift card numbers and use the funds once activated by an unsuspecting user.

Police said they've investigated two reports of this gift card tampering involving more than 100 Visa Vanilla and Apple gift cards at Giant, and said there were reports all over Bucks and Montgomery counties last month.

At the store, scammers will discreetly remove the gift card's packaging, copy down card numbers and pin codes, and then return the cards to the rack. When someone purchases a card and adds money to it, the scammers can use the money remotely.

So how can you avoid getting scammed?

When buying a gift card, check if the packaging is open or has been tampered with. Police said with Visa Vanilla cards, the package doesn't need to be opened to reveal the pin code. With Apple gift cards the package does need to be opened, but can be done so neatly.

If you think a card has been tampered with, don't buy it and notify store officials.  

The Better Business Bureau also has these tips to avoid falling victim to scams during the holidays:

  • Pass on too-good-to-be-true gift card deals: Watch out for websites or social media ads promoting gift cards for popular retailers at steep discounts. These sites might be using offers to steal payment card numbers or other personal information.
  • Research how to use the card: Not all retailers have the same policies when issuing a gift card. Double-check the terms and conditions on the type of gift card purchased.
  • Be wary of websites that offer to check your gift card's balance: According to reports, some websites that claim to check your gift card balance are really a way to steal money off your card. These sites ask for the card's ID number and PIN or security code. Then, scammers use the information to drain the money from your card.
  • Register your gift card. If the retailer allows the option to register the gift card, take advantage. This makes it easier to protect the balance. If there's an issue, you can report it sooner and potentially end up saving the money that is stored on the card.
  • Treat cards like cash: If the card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately.
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