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More gift cards mysteriously drained before purchase

Mom buys Uber gift card that was already used
MasterCard, Visa gift cards can add sneaky tip
Posted at 10:56 AM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 19:33:05-05

If you are hanging on to a gift card you got over the holidays, you may want to use it sooner rather than later. One Cincinnati-area woman is the latest to find a card she purchased as a gift already drained.

Amy Mehrle of Liberty Township bought a $50 Uber gift card for her daughter, who was away at college. But when they tried to register it, the card had a value of zero.

"It appeared someone had already gotten the code and had cashed out that gift card," Mehrle said.

But since it was a holiday gift, she no longer had proof of purchase.

"I had purchased it back in October," she said, "and I did not have my receipt." So there was no going back to the grocery store where she bought the card.

And when she emailed Uber customer service, she learned the company was unable to assist either. "We were really hoping that Uber would give us our $50 back and they said, 'Sorry, you are out of luck.'"

The National Consumers League says this scheme has become common. It says in many cases, thieves copy codes off cards, sometimes using a razor blaze to reveal the code.

They then put them back on the store rack, and check the number frequently until they're activated. At that point they use them.

That may have happened here, but Mehrle says the scratch-off code looked fine. "No, there was no sign of tampering with it at all," she said.

With more and more reports of tampered gift cards every year, you should assume that there is always a chance that your gift card will be drained when you try to use it.

Don't let this happen to you

To protect yourself, the National Consumers League suggests you:

  • Inspect the back of cards for tampering.
  • Look for cards with substantial security packaging, such as a clamshell plastic covering.
  • Hold on to the receipt, which gives you a chance of appealing to the store for a refund.
  • And don't hold on to them for months: use them as soon as possible, so if there is any problem you still have a chance of getting a refund.

Mehrle says she will do that from now on. "I'll keep the code, receipts, I might not buy them so early," she said.

We contacted Uber, which is now looking into whether they can help her.

As always, don't waste your money.

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