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Morrisey offers advice for last-minute gift card purchases

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urged last-minute shoppers to exercise caution when they buy gift cards for Christmas.

Thieves have been known to pilfer gift card racks. They will use handheld scanners to read the card’s magnetic information and any number on the front, after which they place the card back on display and wait for it to be activated.

Once the unknowing recipient activates the card, the thief can create a counterfeit gift card and make online purchases without having the actual card in hand.

“As we’re almost here at Christmas, there are a lot of people out there looking for stocking stuffers, and gift cards can be a great idea,” Morrisey said. “When you’re purchasing the card, make sure that you’re getting the full value on the card. Using a gift card is the equivalent of paying with cash, so it’s important to know you don’t get some of the same protections that purchasing with a credit card can provide.”

Morrisey suggests following these tips to avoid falling prey to gift card scammers:

Purchase gift cards from behind the customer service desk.

If selecting from a rack, select a gift card that is less accessible, such as the middle position on one of the pegs as opposed to the first one.

Watch for any sign of tampering, like a PIN number that has been scratched off.

Avoid purchasing cards from an online auction.

If the card is preloaded, ask for the card to be scanned to verify its full value.

Check for stickers placed over the legitimate barcode and ensure the barcode on the back of the card matches the number on the packaging.

Like any gift, the consumer should keep the receipt.

This advice comes as part of the Attorney General’s Holiday Consumer Protection Month.

Consumers with questions regarding gift cards can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

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