Does Safeway Have A Rampant Gift Card Scam Issue?
I have been hearing about a few different issues with gift cards at Safeway. First we shared with you an issue Miles Per Day had with Amazon gift cards. He followed that up with some more details after speaking to the store manager. Then reader Kevin reached out to let us know of some Visa gift card scams he ran into at multiple Safeway stores. All of the incidents happened in the state of Washington so it could be one scammer hitting everything in that area. But I will share some tips on how you can stay safe with your gift card purchases.
Visa Gift Card Scam
We covered a pretty awesome Visa gift card deal at Safeway yesterday. Reader Kevin was all about it and hit up multiple stores to take advantage. Here is what he reported running into:
#1 $100 VISA Gift Card, Bought Newcastle WA Safeway 2/13/2019
16 digit number from the front of the gift card was totally removed. Valid through month and year were totally removed. Three digit code on the back was totally removed. Last two digits of number above bar code on the back were scratched off. I think the magnetic strip was damaged, or maybe erased by a magnet, since I could not spend the card by swiping it at Costco. The credit card numbers and security code were erased so I could not register or spend them online. The last two digits above the bar code on the back of the card were erased so I could not call the VISA phone number and get the card canceled and reissued, if I did not have the receipt.
#2 $100 VISA Gift Card, Bought at Issaquah WA Safeway 2/13/2019
Last four digits of the 16 digit credit card number were removed. Valid through month and year were not removed. Three digit code on the back was totally removed. Last three digits of number above bar code on the back were scratched off. I did not try to spend this card at a store.
#3 $100 VISA Gift Card, Bought at Issaquah WA Safeway 2/13/2019
16 digit number from the front of the gift card was totally removed. Valid through month and year were totally removed. Three digit code on the back was totally removed. Last two digits of number above bar code on the back were scratched off. I did not try to spend this card at a store.
On all three of the tampered gift cards I had to peel off the back paper strip to reveal the bar code prior to purchase. None of packages had the pull tab opened before I bought them. On all three tampered gift cards the gummy glue normally used to hold the gift card to the inside of the paper packaging was missing. Instead each of them had a different type of glue used along the left edge of the gift card. I believe the scammer/thief cut the left side of the paper cardboard packaging, recorded the credit card numbers, then removed the numbers from the card, then slide the card back into the cardboard packaging, then glued the side of the cardboard packaging.
The defense I see to protect people from buying a tampered gift card is that after the back strip is torn off to reveal the bar code, check to make sure some of the numbers above the bar code have not been scratched off. These numbers need to go all the way to the end of the bar code. I called the phone number on the back of the gift cards and gave them the activation numbers from the store receipt, these are the same numbers above the bar code on the back of the card. I could tell what numbers had been scratched off of the card from the receipt. They canceled each of the three tampered cards, took my information and are mailing me new gift cards (I think 7 to 10 days).
My Thoughts And Ideas To Protect Yourself
This is next level fraud. Between these and the Amazon gift cards Vinh reported these people are going to great lengths to make them look un-tampered with. They are removing them from the shelves, taking them home, and doing their dirty work. The scammers then return the cards at a later time and wait. They must have a bot or system of some sort to constantly check the balances and redeem them. They are doing this in a matter of hours which is pretty shocking.
How can you avoid it? That is tough to say. Be sure to inspect the packages closely and not just the lift tab. They may be too good to catch it this way though. I would do what Vinh suggests and open the package in the store after purchase in front of an employee at the customer service desk. Then you can have it handled right away. If it is an Amazon gift card for personal use add it to your account right after purchase on your phone etc. Be sure to check the numbers above the bar code before having the card swiped like Kevin says too.
This is some next level stuff here. The scammers are going to great lengths to fool people. They scratch off the numbers so you can not redeem the card yourself right away. This gives them more time to find the balance. That is why it is important to open it in store. Since all of this is happening in the Washington area I would tend to think it is one person or group doing it. They are systematically targeted Safeway locations so you may wanna avoid their stores for the time being. Let us know if you have had any issues in other areas though.
Big thanks to Kevin for reaching out and sharing this info.