Skip to content

Gift card scam catching B.C. holiday shoppers off guard

Better Business Bureau issues warning after barcodes swapped on cards
The Better Business Bureau is warning shoppers of a scam involving barcodes being swapped on gift cards. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Gift cards and Christmas go hand-in-hand like Santa and cookies but this holiday season they’re making headlines for a different reason.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a warning to shoppers after a social media influencer raised the alarm about a new scam attracting attention this holiday season.

The scam, which is circulating the country, sees scammers place a barcode sticker on top of the original gift card barcode so when a customer buys the gift card, they are actually loading a completely separate gift card that the scammer has.

For example, the barcode for a $100 liquor store gift card would be placed on top of a barcode for a $100 Playstation gift card, the BBB noted in the warning. “If you don’t catch the con during checkout, you end up activating their card instead of yours.”

Customers have been catching the scam when their gift cards ring through as other items, like the liquor store instead of Playstation.

@nichellelaus Gift Card Scam. Please be aware and share with your friends and family. #HOLIDAYSHOPPING #GIFTCARDSCAM ♬ Stories 2 - Danilo Stankovic

The BBB recommends five tips when buying gift cards online or in person.

1. Know who you are buying from. Little-known websites might advertise gift cards for popular retailers at steep discounts but these websites could be using these offers to steal payment card numbers or other personal information. The BBB recommends buying directly from the merchant.

2. Don’t use third-party websites to check gift card balances. Some websites that claim to check balances are really a way to steal money from the card. These sites will ask for the card ID number and PIN or security code. Scammers will then use that information to drain the money from the card.

3. Be wary of the value of the gift card. The BBB noted gift cards might seem like the perfect present for that hard-to-shop-for-person but there are drawbacks. For example, if the store goes out of business, the gift card won’t have any value.

4. Register the gift card. Some retailers allow the option to register the gift card and the BBB recommends taking advantage of this as it can make it easier to protect the balance.

5. Take a closer look when buying a physical gift card. “No matter where gift cards are displayed in the store, thieves are known to remove gift cards from the display rack and record the numbers associated with that card, including the activation PIN. Before purchasing a gift card, look carefully at the packaging for any tears, wrinkles, or other indications of tampering, and see if the PIN is exposed. If anything looks suspicious, it’s probably best to take a different card and turn in the compromised card to the store’s customer service desk.”

Learn how to avoid more holiday-related scams by visiting

ALSO READ: BBB warning of online shopping scams this holiday season


Do you have a story tip? Email:

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

About the Author: Greater Victoria News Staff

Read more