Make us your home page

Protect yourself from gift card hackers

Retailers and consumer experts expect gift cards to be the most popular item people will receive this holiday season.

Con artists also know the lucrative gift card trade provides hundreds of millions of dollars to potentially pilfer from consumers. Thieves have devised various methods of "hacking" gift cards to steal the money before consumers use them.

Here are some ways to protect the money on the gift card you receive this holiday season.

How can thieves hack a gift card?

Thieves often record the numbers from gift cards in a store before a consumer buys it and create another card with the same information. When a customer loads the original card, the thief tries to spend the money first.

The thieves also buy card-reading devices to capture the card information and then use it to spend the money.

How can I protect myself from having my gift card information hacked?

An important way to protect your gift card is to inspect the card before buying it. Verify that no protective stickers have been removed and that the codes on the back of the card haven't been scratched off to reveal an identification number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.

Also, buy from known and trusted sources. Avoid online auction sites, because the cards sold there may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.

What if my gift card is lost or stolen?

If your card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. You may not recover any of the value that was on the card. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, but other issuers will, for a fee. You may need to show proof of purchase and the ID number on the card. Most issuers have toll-free telephone numbers you can call to report a lost or stolen card.

If I can't resolve a dispute with the retailer about my gift card, whom can I call?

There are government agencies that can help.

• For cards issued by retailers, contact the Federal Trade Commission at or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Or you may file a complaint with your state attorney general (for a list of state offices, visit

• For cards issued by national banks, contact the comptroller of the currency's Customer Assistance Group by calling toll-free 1-800-613-6743 or sending an e-mail to The comptroller charters, regulates and supervises national banks.

Protect yourself from gift card hackers 12/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 23, 2010 8:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  2. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R- Land O’ Lakes, is proposing an end to public financing of campaigns. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
  4. Eat 3-course meals for $35 at these 100 restaurants for Orlando's Magical Dining Month

    Food & Dining

    In the early 1900s, hotels offered "table d'hote" or "prix fixe" menus as a form of loss leader. Hotels didn't necessarily make money on these lower-priced, multi-course meals, often served at communal tables, but they made up for it on the booze. Prohibition may have contributed to a gradual shift toward a la carte …

    Bulla Gastrobar serves a variety of Spanish and Portuguese dishes.
  5. Plant City farmer hopes robot pickers can save strawberry industry from shrinking labor force


    PLANT CITY — If current trends continue, the region's status as a major strawberry producer will depend in large part on what happens in Mexico.

    Strawberry pickers work during the daytime, when fruit is more likely to bruise. Machine pickers can work at night. The owner of Wish Farms in Plant City is developing automated pickers and hopes to see them at work on a widespread basis in five years. [Times file]