Gift card scams on the rise in Colorado

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Gift card scams are on the rise as criminals take advantage of the ease with which these cards can be compromised.

A recent AARP study shows that 26% of consumers have given or received a gift card with no balance, up from 21% in 2021.

One victim of this type of scam is Lakewood resident Jesse Dixon.

Before last month, Dixon regularly bought Visa Gift Cards for client gifts at the King Soopers store in Arvada.

“They’re easy to use,” Dixon said. “I’ve bought these many times before, and this has never happened.”

Last November, he loaded a Visa gift card with $250 in the store, but when he gifted it, the balance was zero.

Dixon spent weeks trying to get his money back, but the company concluded that no error had occurred and closed the matter.

Mark Fetterhoff with AARP Elderwatch says this crime is on the rise, and consumers should be vigilant when buying and using gift cards.

Criminals steal gift card numbers by taking pictures of them, sometimes adding stickers with fake bar codes, and even ordering silver scratch strips to make it look like the card was never tampered with.

“I think there’ll be more protections in the future around gift cards because it has become such an important form of currency for criminals out there,” Fetterhoff said.

Dixon believes that retailers and banks could take easy steps to protect consumers, such as placing the cards behind secure counters or requiring registration.

“I think they are well aware of the ease in which these cards are compromised, and they’re still selling and they don’t have to refund them,” Dixon said.

After Contact Denver7 reached out to US Bank, Dixon received a phone call from a representative.

“So apparently, very shortly after you reached out to US bank, they called me within 24 hours,” he said. “She said, ‘We have reviewed your case again and overturned our previous ruling.’ I am getting my money back. There’s zero chance that I think I would have been reimbursed had you not reached out and lit a fire.”

Contact Denver7 has these tips to protect yourself:

  • Buy gift cards directly from the business that issues them, preferably by ordering online
  • Look over cards for signs of tampering such as wrinkled packaging or a sticker over the barcode.
  • Save the receipt until the card has been used.
  • Register your card with the retailer if that is an option
  • Treat a gift card like cash. If it’s stolen or drained, report it to the issuer immediately. You might be able to get your money back.

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