Visa Gift Card Fraud! What Happened & How to Protect Yourself
Recently, I was the victim of Visa Gift Card fraud. Big picture, I’m lucky this hasn’t happened earlier. While I do take many measures to ensure I’m not the victim of such fraud, I’m unable to completely avoid such a scam. Let’s get into what happened, the actions I took, resolution, and additional steps I plan to take to avoid Visa gift card fraud in the future.
Buying the (Unknowingly) Damaged Visa Gift Card
In March, I purchased a Visa gift card (issued by US Bank) at Kroger during a normal grocery shopping trip. As always prior to purchasing, I inspected the gift card packaging. I ensured that the label enclosing the activation bar code had not been opened and that there were no other open or damaged areas to the gift card packaging. I then checked out with my groceries and gift card. During the checkout process and prior to paying, I examined the exposed portion of the activated gift card. Based on Joe’s experience with buying fraudulent gift cards, I knew to check the card for a plastic feeling (rather than paper). I felt the plastic, and all seemed fine. Finally, before leaving checkout, I ensured the activation receipt looked right.
Attempting to Use the Card
A few days later while picking up a few additional items at a different supermarket, I tried using the card. The card reader did not recognize the card. There wasn’t even an error message; it was as if there was no card swiped at all. The representative canceled the transaction. I planned to investigate once I got home.
Spotting the Damage
When I got home, I checked the gift card’s balance. During this process, I noticed that the three digit CID was smudged. Upon further inspection, I saw that only one partial digit was on the card. The other two digits were totally removed (or were never there in the first place).
Reporting the Damage and Getting a Replacement Card
I called the gift card help line and quickly got through to a representative. She was very helpful, quickly agreeing this was a damaged card and it needed to be replaced. The representative stated that she was processing a new replacement card at no charge and I would receive it in about 10 business days. She stated my original card would remain active in the meantime, and I could use it online if the CID wasn’t needed for the purchase. I thanked her, and the call ended.
Receiving the Replacement Card and Another Surprise
About two weeks later, the replacement card showed up in the mail. The same day, I called to activate the card, then I chose the “check balance” option. The robotic voice stated, “Your current balance is $0.05.” I then went to the gift card website to get a better view of the card history. Just like during the call, the gift card balance was $0.05. On the lower region of the page, I reviewed the purchase history. Someone made a $499.95 charge at a store about four hours away from me. The info reflected that the original card data was used to make this purchase, and the purchase was made one day after I reported the original card damaged!
I then called the helpline, but their computers were down. I would need to call back later. Yay.
Reporting the Visa Gift Card Fraud
I do not recommend attempting to report gift card fraud during a global pandemic. Numerous calls the next day met with a variety of unsatisfactory endings. Here are the different responses I got to separate calls:
- I’m sorry, sir. The computers are still down. You’ll have to call back later.
- I’m sorry, sir. The fraud department isn’t answering when I try to connect you. You’ll have to call back later.
- Multiple Calls: After calling the phone number, the automated system doesn’t even pick up the call.
- Okay, sir, thank you for calling. I’m putting you on hold for the fraud department. [45 minute wait, then the phone disconnects.]
- Okay, sir, thank you for calling. I’m putting you on hold for the fraud department. [Over a two hour wait.] I want to go to bed, so I hang up.
The above is not an all-inclusive list, but you get the point. Representatives said they were working from home, and there had been some ongoing issues. Two days after my initial call to report the fraud, I finally got through to the fraud department.
After my experiences so far, I was happy at how efficient the call with the fraud department was. After describing the situation for what seemed like the 50th time, I answered a few of the representative’s questions. It seemed she was populating some report or form. She then told me I would receive a form in 3-5 days to complete and return. Finally, the representative told me it could take up to 90 days to resolve the issue, but quite often issues are resolved much faster than that.
Visa Gift Card Fraud Resolution
I received and completed the form, then returned it via mail. About a week later, I checked the balance on my replacement card. The card had a $500 balance! After only one week or so of mailing the form I had the money back. Of course, I then used the funds from this card ASAP. About one week later, I received a letter stating that the matter had been resolved, and the investigation was closed.
Throughout this experience, I theorized on how this fraud could have happened. Do I find it coincidental that the damaged card was also the fraudulently used card? No. From my perspective, someone intentionally damaged the card so that physical use was difficult or impossible. In the meantime, the fraudsters would have more time to drain the card (via the card’s data) while it was active but unused.
Additional Protective Measures
I have taken on additional measures to protect myself and will continue to do so. I have become even more thorough while inspecting gift cards prior to purchase. At checkout, I pull the backing further so I can ensure the entire three-digit CID is present prior to any purchase. If I ever discover a damaged or missing CID, I plan to report the issue to store management.
Additionally, if I am ever unable to physically use a card and need a replacement, I will request that the original card is completely deactivated. That way, fraudsters wouldn’t be able to drain the original cards’ funds while I await the replacement card.
Experiencing Visa gift card fraud wasn’t fun but ended well. Also, I’m lucky that it hasn’t happened to me earlier. I underscored two main points even further during this process. First, I need to remain vigilant and do everything in my control to protect myself. Second, I need to be positive and determined as I work toward fraud resolution. Have you ever been the victim of Visa gift card fraud? How did you resolve it?