Friday, December 23, 2011

Gift Card Balance Theft

Gift cards have a unique number in a magnetic strip that is used to track usage and outstanding balances. This usually works well, and has the benefit that you often won't lose your remaining balance if you lose the gift card, since you can simply call to report the card as stolen or lost.

Now imagine that a scammer comes into a store that displays gift cards on public racks (such as Wal-Mart) with a small and inexpensive mag-strip scanner in his pocket. This scanner can easily read and store the unique gift card serial numbers.

So, the scammer simply grabs some of these gift cards from the rack, finds a quiet place and quickly scans each card to get its unique serial number. They then put the cards back (or leave them somewhere in the store) since they are done with them.

(Incidentally, this high tech approach isn't even needed. The crook can simply copy ... Find out more.

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