Better Call Behnken

Gift card fraud leaves Lakeland family without Christmas presents

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) - Julian Cox spent $1,100 on gift cards for Christmas gifts for his children and grandchildren, and every card is worthless.

"I was shocked," Cox said. "Every single card had a $0 balance."

Cox, a private security guard, is having a tough year. His wife passed away in February. His Amazon gift cards, he says, were stolen before he ever had a chance to give them as gifts. Shortly after he bought the cards, he says he checked the balance to make sure they were good before giving them to his family. 

"I went through the proper channels, but got nowhere," Cox said. "Amazon says they can't do anything because I got them at a retailer. And the retailer says they can't do anything because they are Amazon cards and they give no refund on them."

Cox said an Amazon representative said four of the cards were redeemed before he bought them. 

Further perplexing is that Cox bought the cards at two different retailers, Walgreens and Harveys Supermarket. Both retailers and Amazon said they couldn't help.

"I did everything right," Cox said. "This is not my fault. I am not going to buy gift cards again. If you buy a gift card, you're taking a chance."

Gift card fraud is rampant. Some scammers use a skimmer to read the card's magnetic strip. Even cards with a scratch-off code can be compromised. Crooks just steal the code and then cover it back up with a replacement sticker.

When consumers add value to the card, the crook spends the money before you can. 

Calls to Amazon and Walgreens were not returned. A representative from Harveys said the chain will investigate the situation.

"The security of our customers is important to us," he said. 


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