Authorities nationwide are issuing a warning about a gift card scam called card draining as many holiday shoppers look to buy gift cards as Christmas gifts.
Scammers Are In Full Force
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man accused of running a scam up and down the West Coast. It would have been a $2.89 million loss to consumers.
The sheriff’s office now has a room full of gift cards. 5,739 gift cards to be exact, but a third of them are fake.
They were all taken from one arrest at a Target store in Sacramento County.
Ningning Sun was arrested on Wednesday during the sheriff’s weeklong Operation Bad Elf, which targeted retail theft throughout Sacramento County. Police found more than 5,000 gift cards from Target and Apple in Sun’s possession, they said.
The cards were traced to 54 Target stores in 12 counties across the state, according to CBS News. Investigators believe that thousands of fraudulent gift cards could still be on racks in Targets across the state from Los Angeles to the Bay Area and the Central Valley.
Detective Andy Cater made the tackle.
“We caught the guy who was working Target on the West Coast, but there are others working other retail establishments,” said Cater.
“Target told us they didn’t want to work with us, but we went and showed up anyway. We are going to be there regardless of whether they want to work with us, because the community deserves this level of service,” said Cater.
Detective David Derouen, who worked on “Operation Bad Elf,” is helping prevent Target stores from becoming victims of organized retail theft. “If you purchase this gift card and put $100 on it and give it to a family member or friend, the suspects have a computer system that once that’s card funded, the money is siphoned out and placed into an account…,” said Derouen.
It wasn’t just Target gift cards; Apple store cards were also found. Investigators say this is happening at all major retailers.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Make sure the gift card is sealed and the protective cover and the tape covering the pin is intact
- Ensure the gift card does not appear to be tampered with
- Keep the store receipt in case the gift card you are purchasing is found to have been compromised
- If a purchased gift card is found to be compromised, immediately report it to the gift card company directly, to request a freeze on the card and request a refund
Managers of retail locations suggest purchasing gift cards from behind the counter, not the ones hanging near the checkout.