SCAM ALERT: Be Cautious When Purchasing Last Minute Gift Cards

PHOENIX - As the countdown to Christmas begins, Attorney General Mark Brnovich is asking Arizonans to be extra cautious when making last-minute gift card purchases.

“Gift cards are one of the most requested items on holiday wish lists. Unfortunately, thieves like gift cards too,” said Attorney General Brnovich. “Con-artists are now able to scan gift card numbers inside the store and drain away balances before you can even use the card.”

Gift card fraud is on the rise as thieves target in-store gift card racks. They use handheld scanners to read the card’s magnetic information and any number on the front, after which they place the card back on display and wait for it to be activated.

Once the unknowing recipient activates the card, the thief can use the stolen card number to make online purchases and drain the balance on the card.

AG Brnovich suggests the following tips to avoid gift card scams:

  • Purchase gift cards from behind the customer service desk.
  • Choose cards with packaging that covers the card number and security code, which would easily show any evidence of tampering.
  • Choose a card with loss/theft protection.
  • Watch for any sign of tampering, like a PIN number that has been scratched off.
  • Avoid purchasing cards from an online auction.
  • If the card is preloaded, ask for the card to be scanned to verify its full value.
  • Like any gift, the consumer should keep the receipt.
  • Change the security code, if possible. Some gift cards allow you to personalize the security code or PIN. If so, register the card immediately after purchase, change the PIN and tell the recipient the new code.

If you believe you have been the victim of a  scam or any other type of consumer fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6504, or outside the metro areas at (800) 352-8431. Bilingual consumer protection staff is available to assist. Consumers can also file complaints online by visiting the Attorney General’s website  at