Watch out for thieves stealing money right off your gift card

Watch out for thieves stealing money right off your gift card

You can find a gift card almost anywhere: grocery stores, gas stations, department stores. It's a quick and easy present, but thieves are stealing money from those cards before they're ever sold.

Amanda Gassner and her husband couldn't wait to go back to Disney World. Amanda went to Target and bought a Disney gift card to use on the trip.

"We got married at Disney, engaged and married at Disney, so it's kind of our place," she said. "The gift card was worth $325."

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She says three weeks later, they were at Disney, went to use the card and it said $0.

"They tried it a couple of times and they said, 'I'm sorry, there's no money on here.' I hadn't even touched the card yet," she said.

Disney told her thieves probably got the card first.

It's a growing trend: thieves take a gift card off the rack, they copy the number, then scratch off the silver strip on the back and steal the code. The thieves even figured out a way to make the card look like new again.

They wait for you to buy the card and activate it. Then, they spend the money before you can.

Gassner complained to Target.

"My friend actually suggested that I contact you guys ... because I was back and forth with Target for a very long time.  I was on the phone with them for about ten hours total. Three different departments. It was just a mess," she said.

After our sister station in Charlotte got involved, Amanda said Target refunded her for her trouble.

The Target store said it was "glad" it was able to "remedy this situation for our guest" but would not say if it was doing anything differently to undermine gift card thieves.

Consumer experts say the best way to protect yourself from this scam is to get your gift card online instead of inside a brick-and-mortar store - or just give cash instead.