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Horribly Epic – My Latest Gift Card Fraud Experience Finally Ends

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Gift Card Fraud

Gift Card Fraud

The highs of our points and travel hobby come with the risk of the lows.  Despite my generally conscientious efforts, I’m periodically reminded of the latter.  My most recent gift card fraud experience dates back to May.  It’s not that new, you might think.  Well, it feels a lot more recent because I just obtained resolution last week.  I can finally move on about four and a half months after this thing started.  I don’t wish my experience upon any active hobbyist.  But I fear others experienced it around the same time I did.  Here’s how it all went down.  Hopefully, you can avoid what happened to me.

It Started…

…with a normal trip to Walmart.  Back in May, I bought a significant amount of gift cards from a few different locations.  Things went swimmingly, until they didn’t.  I ended up buying three fraudulent Vanilla Visa gift cards issued by Incomm.

Upon returning home, I opened one gift card to discover a printed paper with barcode over a card which didn’t match the packaging.  And another.  Then one more.  The fraudsters’ methods were nothing new but still worked, obviously.

Of course, I bear some responsibility here.  I casually inspected card packaging before buying and could’ve been more thorough.  But these package versions expose a very small part of the card’s back, so miniscule that my fingers couldn’t feel anything questionable.  A closer inspection would basically involve opening up the package (unlike other old cards, where a better look and feel could be accomplished without cracking open the entire package).  With my busy acquisition during the timeframe and having never experienced gift card fraud at Walmart before, I didn’t go that far.

I knew right away these gift cards weren’t activated – the barcode on the paper was.  My fear was confirmed online – an error reflecting the cards weren’t activated.  I buckled in for the wild ride to come.

Gift Card Fraud

Calling Incomm

As seems to be the case with most issuers, calling in to report gift card fraud isn’t a minor task.  After a substantial wait, an agent answered, and I explained the situation.  I deliberately stepped through my experience, explaining the paper barcode covering the unactivated card.  Based on the conversation, I could tell the agent was very slow to comprehend the exact fraud.  For instance, the rep asked for the gift card number on the front of the card corresponding to the paper barcode.  I recall starting over my explanation multiple times.

We finally reached a point of common understanding, which led to the agent looking forward to getting off the phone as quickly as possible.  I provided information on the paper barcodes and actual cards.  The rep didn’t seem that interested in the info, telling me to just send it in via email.  Could Incomm email new cards when the case upon resolution?  The rep didn’t give any real answer.  And oh, by the way, the investigation can take at least 30 business days.  The call ended.

Gift Card Fraud

My Gift Card Fraud Email

Immediately after the call, I sent the email to initiate the investigation process.  I summarized the situation and sent in all the photos the rep requested, amounting to 14 attachments:

  • Driver’s license (front and back)
  • Each unactivated Gift Card (front and back)
  • Each receipt
  • Paper barcodes from each gift card package

It was time for bed after that.

Checking In

In another masochistic exercise, I called Incomm in mid-July after the 30 business days had elapsed.  I hadn’t received any correspondence since reporting the gift card fraud, and I requested an update on the process.  The rep kicked the can, telling me the investigation was ongoing.  I cited the 30 day timeframe, and he reiterated investigations take at least that long.  He was very quick to mention I could call in again to check status, but I should receive an email when resolved, anyway.  In a twisted sense, this call “only” taking 20 minutes felt like a minor victory.

Good News, Sort Of

In early August, Incomm emailed, noting that my gift card (singular) was active and available for use.  Sure enough, the first card I checked had a balance close to $500, as expected.  But checking the balances of the other two cards errored out like they had originally.

I had work to do.  First, I immediately liquidated that first card online.  Next, I called in again, spelling out that only one card was activated and the two others still needed to be.  The agent escalated the issue without providing any reason for why the other two hadn’t been activated.  The call ended.

I was glad I got one card resolved despite my frustration that the other two hadn’t been.  Meanwhile, I couldn’t shake the surreal nature of Incomm’s resolution.  Why would Incomm activate a gift card with information the fraudsters clearly had access to?  Wouldn’t mailing replacement cards have been the most sensible move?  This still bewilders me.

Escalating Escalations

During the rest of August and September, I called Incomm a few more times.  Same stuff, different days.  The case was still in process, and I escalated to a manager each time for resolution.  They escalated it a few more times for more attention by the back office, whatever that means. That was probably a placebo, but I was more at peace giving an effort, at least.

One More Email

Last week, I received the same boilerplate email from Incomm noting resolution.  Sure enough, the remaining two cards were active and carried accurate balances.  I immediately liquidated each online.  After all, fraudsters had this information, and I wanted to consume these cards ASAP.

Gift Card Fraud

Gift Card Fraud – Conclusion

I haven’t bought gift cards at Walmart since this happened, and I don’t have any immediate plans to do so.  If I ever do again, I’ll open the gift card package more for a closer inspection.  Regardless, I found Incomm’s resolution, in terms of the quality and timing, quite unsatisfactory.  I’ve experienced gift card fraud with US Bank a few times, and I’ve always been made whole more quickly and with less effort.  At any rate, as stores shove in holiday gift card displays, be even more on the lookout for gift card fraud.

Have you experienced gift card fraud recently?  How was your experience with resolution?

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Oh | at least, I’am not alone with the kind of fraud.
    I had a similar experience with Incomm. In my case, the last 4 digits of the card number were ‘erased’. In another case, the cvv code was written in pencil. And it took at least 3 months to correct the situation.
    When these are $500 cards, it’s stressful to be deprived of them for such a long time.
    A word of advice: always keep the sales slip, the complete card packaging and note down all interventions with Incomm. And don’t hesitate to e-mail back for regular status updates.

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