Take precautions to avoid gift card fraud

Gift cards are a convenient way to give your friends and loved ones “just the right thing” at holiday time. They also give thieves an opportunity to make off with your money, according to a public service announcement issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Gift cards are a convenient way to give your friends and loved ones “just the right thing” at holiday time. They also give thieves an opportunity to make off with your money, according to a public service announcement issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

How can you protect yourself from gift card scams? Here are pointers.

• Buy directly from reputable stores. If you’re getting a restaurant gift card, stop by the restaurant in person or visit their web site. That goes for airlines and big box stores too.

• Check reviews of sellers of gift cards in online auctions. There’s a reason someone’s selling the card at a discounted price – it may be stolen or counterfeit. Are you willing to take the risk?

• Examine the card. Before purchasing a gift card, inspect the front and back for tampering. Some cards have PIN codes that must be exposed before use. Make sure the PIN is still hidden.

• Register the card. Some issuers let you register the card at the store’s web site. By registering, you’ll be able to check your balance on a regular basis and identify any misuse.