Clark Howard: Get the most out of your gift cards

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Gift cards are popular this time of year. But when you buy one, I want to make sure you are protected. That’s because gift cards sold off display racks at stores are becoming a hot target for scamsters.

Consumerist.com reports there are a number of scams going on where crooks have found a way to steal value from gift cards before they’re sold.

“Sometimes this means scratching off the area on the back of the card to reveal the code. It could also mean peeking down the sleeve of the card to read and record the number,” the website reports.

Using these methods, the crooks are able to drain the money on those cards before they can be used by the recipient.
Worst of all, no one is taking responsibility. When the gift card giver or receiver contacts the store where the card was sold, or contacts the merchant that accepts the card, suddenly everyone washes their hands of it! The money is wiped out and the consumer is left stuck in the middle.

The warning here is clear as it can be: Do not buy gift cards from those multi-vendor racks at retail stores. Only buy gift cards that are stored behind the register or counter at a store.

And as for retailers, why not consider moving the gift cards behind the customer service desk where they’re less likely to be tampered with?

My rule is only buy a gift card when you get more value than what you paid. Not the dollar-for-dollar kind.
If you go to the warehouse clubs, you can often buy gift cards where you get $120 in value at a restaurant for only $100. Anything where you get enhanced value is great. That’s a good kind of gift card.

Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website

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