As every retailer knows, thieves are an inventive lot. It seems that for every season, and for every technological advance, a new scam appears that hurts businesses and consumers alike. One of the newest involves the theft of gift card ID numbers that allow thieves access to card balances. Here's how it works: A thief will write down the numbers on gift cards displayed in a store, but does not purchase or steal the cards. The thief will then wait a few days before calling the store to ask what the current balance is for a card number he or she has recorded. Once the thief finds a card that has been activated or purchased by an unsuspecting consumer, the thief will go online and start shopping.
In a recent alert, Joseph LaRocca, the National Retail Federation's vice president of loss prevention, noted, "Instances where consumers lose money from theft of gift card information are extremely rare, but they can happen."
Retailers can take a few simple steps to help prevent gift card "number" theft: Don't sell cards that are on display. Instead, when a customer comes up to the cash register with a card, give them one that has not been displayed. For display purposes, use cards that you had planned to increment, a training card, or a card that has not been activated, and place those cards on hold. (For stores offering Book Sense gift cards, this can be done via store.givex.com.) Cards can be taken off hold if necessary, but a hold will impede further transactions. Place all cards in a secure place and use signage to promote gift card sales. Inventory all cards and record serial numbers appearing on shrink-wrap labels or on the backs of the cards. If a card comes up missing, you can place that card on hold. Provide receipts to your customers and post your store's policy regarding lost or stolen cards. Reconcile your gift card sales on a regular basis.
Responding to this new development in the ever-growing world of scams, Book Sense staff is working to find a solution that may include producing cards without numbers or cards with a PIN for online purchases. In the meantime, stores offering Book Sense gift cards are being warned never to give out a gift card balance over the phone. Givex, ABA, and Book Sense staff will not provide card balances over the phone or by e-mail. Balances can be obtained by booksellers on all of the authorized Book Sense/Givex Gift card sites.