TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Experts estimate consumers spent nearly half of their holiday budgets on gift cards. And why not? It’s the easiest way to buy for everyone on your list.

It’s easy to access the money, too, and that’s why gift cards are appealing to crooks!

The Federal Trade Commission reports that gift card scams account for more than a quarter of the fraud cases the agency investigates.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning consumers to be cautious.

Here are things to keep in mind, whether you still plan to buy a gift card or use one you’ve received as a gift.

Crooks may create fake websites and advertise fake gift cards for popular retailers at steep discounts to steal victims’ financial information.

Thieves may record numbers and pins of gift cards in stores, so when a victim purchases the card, the scammer can access the money.

Protect yourself by purchasing gift cards directly from the merchant. Don’t use little-known, third-party sites, and inspect cards before buying in-person—look carefully at the packaging for any sings of tampering.

If the retailer gives you the option to register the gift card, take full advantage it. It will make it easier to protect the balance, that way you can report it sooner and potentially end up saving the money that is stored on the card.

Change the pin on the card, and don’t delay in using the money. The longer a card sits around, the more likely a cybercriminal will steal the balance.