NOVEMBER 29, 2006 -- POSTED AT 10:45 P.M. CST
JONESBORO, AR -- Gift cards; It's the gift that keeps on giving, that is if the card is real.
More than 18 billion dollars in gift cards were purchased in 2005 and retailers are expecting that to only increase before this year is over. But if you plan on saving time looking for the perfect gift and purchasing a gift card this year, you should beware of where you buy it.
"If it looks suspicious, don't get it," says Walker Crain, a local shopper.
Walker Crain says he does his shopping both online and in the stores, but when it comes to gift cards he says he's very careful.
"I would never buy a gift card anywhere other than the store because they could mail it to you and it could be empty, one they've stolen off the shelves at the store, and then you're pretty much out of luck," says Crain.
Colleen Gibons is the local store manager for Barnes and Noble. She says shoppers should beware of the pre-paid gift card scams because they're definitely out there and it could easily happen to you.
"The absolute basic most simple advice would be to stick to the brand of the retailer that they want to do business with. Go into the store or go to that specific brand website," says Gibons.
According to the better business bureau, there are 2 ways crooks can rip you off when it comes to gift cards. One way is by selling stolen cards on internet auction sites, such as EBay or Amazon. You get the card in the mail, try to use it in the store and quickly find out it's worth nothing.
"If there is a computer error or a clerical error, then we're able to fix it for them versus buying the gift card from some unknown distributor. I have no recourse to take if that card is not what they thought it to be," says Gibons.
Most gift cards come in any value, but the thing about this scam is they're ripping you off before you ever buy the card. This one works by the crook going in the store, copying down the numbers on the back of the card, waiting for it to be purchased and activated, and then using that number online for a shopping spree at your expense.
"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. So, just be smart and stick with what you know and where you can go to visit a face with your problem," says Gibons.
-When buying a gift card, keep the original receipt with the card as proof of purchase.
-Immediately after buying a gift card, ask the cashier to scan the card itself to ensure the card is valid and has the proper value.
-Reputable companies do not ask for sensitive information such as Social Security number, bank account information or date of birth when purchasing gift cards.