Gift cards are one quick way to get through your last-minute holiday shopping list. But before you give (and get) gift cards, here are a few things you need to know.
— This article is from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information blog. Cristina Miranda works in the FTC Division of Consumer and Business Education.
- Inspect gift cards before you buy. A gift card should have all its protective stickers in place. Report the card to the store if anything looks scratched off or damaged.
- When you buy, save the receipt. Keeping the gift card receipt can be helpful if you run into problems with the card.
- Treat gift cards like cash. Report a lost or stolen gift card to the card’s issuer immediately. Most card issuers have toll-free numbers you can find online to report a lost or stolen card. Depending on the card issuer, you may even be able to get some money back.
- Buy gift cards from sources you know and trust. Think twice about buying gift cards from online auction sites, to avoid buying fake or stolen cards.
- Read the gift card’s terms and conditions. Know the deal you’re getting with gift cards. For example, are there fees every time it gets used – or if it sits unused?
And here’s the most important gift card tip of all:
- Remember that gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Gift cards are a scammer’s favorite way to steal people’s money. Anyone who demands that you pay them with a gift card, for any reason, is always a scammer. This includes calls from imposters claiming to be a family member with an emergency, calls from the IRS and Social Security, law enforcement, and utility companies. Simply put, never pay with a gift card.
Report gift card scams directly with the card issuer (use this list of phone numbers and emails), then report it to the FTC, here. For more information, visit FTC.gov/GiftCards, and check out this video: