Mastercard Gift Card Fraud
Stuff happens. Many points and travel hobbyists, especially extremely active ones, encounter unwelcome surprises on their way to more rewards. Gift card fraud is one example. I’ve experienced it from time to time, but not recently (knock on wood). An MtM Diamond member on the West Coast just took a hit, though. And what he discovered is a concerning development. Here’s the Mastercard gift card fraud he experienced and what you should watch out for.
The Diamond member recently bought several US Bank Mastercard gift cards at Ralph’s, part of the Kroger family of grocery stores. He didn’t notice anything suspicious with the card packaging at purchase but admitted not closely inspecting each item.
When the member opened the gift card packaging, he discovered a “Cal” gift card matching the package (normal) and a cut-in-half Visa gift card (not normal) – see the above photo. Tearing off the paper tab prior to purchase exposed the rear of the Visa gift card. Perhaps some of you know where this is going.
The member looked at the activation receipt and confirmed that the Visa gift card had been activated, not the Mastercard he thought he was buying. Based on how the fraudsters cut the Visa gift card, there was no CVV. Therefore, he couldn’t check the Visa gift card balance. It appears this scam using parts of actual gift cards is more sophisticated than the printed barcodes from a few years ago.
Subsequently, the Diamond member called the number on the card back and provided information on each card (both are US Bank-issued). Not surprisingly, the rep confirmed that the Cal Mastercard was never activated. Instead, the member had unknowingly activated the Visa card, but luckily, automated fraud monitoring had already frozen this card.
As directed, the member to fax copies of the following items: driver’s license, receipt, and rear photos of each card. He also included a letter explaining the issue and front photos of each card. The rep advised to wait up to three business days for a follow-up call with next steps.
Fraudsters are increasingly clever. That shouldn’t surprise any of us. This incident is just a reminder to carefully inspect each gift card package before purchase, including a deeper examination of the interior. Also, ensure to open, check the balance, and use each gift card as soon as possible after purchase. While monotonous, it’s just part of the deal to play the game at a higher level while avoiding fraud, in my view. For many, simply avoiding these types of gift cards may be the optimal move. Indeed, most of the gift card fraud I’ve experienced has been with US Bank gift cards. On the bright side, US Bank has always made me whole in these situations, and I expect the Diamond member will be, as well.
Has something similar happened to you recently? How did you resolve it?
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