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How to Protect Retail Customers from Gift Card Scams By an eHow Contributor

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Whether it's for a birthday or other special event, consumers love to give and receive gift cards. Scam artists, however, have put a kink in this popular gift-giving venture by stealing the numbers from inactivated cards, waiting for them to be activated and using the cards before the gift receivers can. With a few simple measures, a retailer can help protect customers from falling victim to this scam.

Instructions

  • 1. Keep gift cards behind the counter. Display dummy cards so customers know they are available, and then provide a real card at the time of purchase.

  • 2. Take inventory on a regular basis to identify missing cards. Scam artists sometimes pocket the cards and leave the store with them so they will have more time to write down the numbers in a less conspicuous place than hiding in an aisle or the bathroom. They return later and replace them on the rack.

  • 3. Ask your gift card telephone operators to refrain from providing gift card balances over the phone. Either set up a Web site where gift card holders can retrieve this information after setting up a password or only allow balance inquiries at the store.

  • 4. Include a hidden PIN on each gift card. Make it difficult for scam artists to get this number without altering the packaging. This is especially useful if you keep cards on a display rack. If the customer brings a card to the register and the packaging isn't completely sealed, have her choose a different card.

  • 5. Set up a Web site where the customer must register the gift card and choose a PIN before he can use it. For added security, include a code on the receipt he must also input when activating the card. Require the user to enter the PIN when making purchases.

  • 6. Require customers to show a picture ID when using gift cards. Someone with a stolen gift card may hesitate or refuse to identify herself. Tech-savvy crooks have found a way to purchase a real gift card and then reprogram it with the number of a stolen card with a balance. This allows them to shop at the actual stores and not just online.

  • 7. Be suspicious of anyone milling around the gift card display or taking several cards and then putting them back. Politely ask if you can help him and take notice if he's carrying a note pad to write numbers on or an electronic device (magstripe scanner) he can use to scan or copy the numbers. Check with your local police to see if you can charge a person with shoplifting if you catch him stealing card numbers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Instead of displaying dummy cards, you can make an eye-catching display without cards that indicates the customer should purchase them at the register.

  • Inventory gift cards on display throughout the day and reconcile that number with the number sold. If some are missing on one count and then show up on a recount, the cards may not be safe to sell.

  • Many companies find their own staff members are perpetrators of store theft. Be sure you also have measures in place to ensure your employees don't take part in this scam and foul up the steps you took to protect your customers' purchases.

eHow Business Editor

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

Via eHow.com

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