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Beware: Hackers can steal money off gift cards before you have a chance to use them

Posted at 11:25 AM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 13:25:03-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Gift cards are a billion-dollar business during the holidays, but you may have bought a worthless stolen card without even realizing it.

Thieves are stealing the activation codes and other data from the card. They are then monitoring those cards for activation and wiping out the balances seconds after they are purchased.

Jack Garthwaite says he and his mom purchased six $100 iTunes gift cards at Target.

Garthwaite says he took advantage of a Black Friday deal where Target offered a $20 gift card for every $100 spent on iTunes cards. Several days later, Garthwaite, a college student, says he attempted to use the cards to buy his dad a new phone.

“I tried to redeem the first one, and Apple was saying it had already been used. So, I tried the next one same thing, next one same thing,” he said. “My heart sank. I was like, this is bad.”

Garthwaite contacted both Target and Apple about his worthless gift cards.

“Apple was able to confirm it was not on my account; that I did not redeem them,” he said.

According to an email from Apple to Garthwaite, the cards were redeemed minutes after purchase. But Garthwaite said Target did not refund his money.

“Tried to talk to the manager, and he pretty much shut us down,” Garthwaite said. Adding that the manager told him there were “no refunds on gift cards. ”

ABC Action News reached out to Target to ask about Garthwaite’s claim. Days later, a spokesperson responded in an email:

“After looking into the information provided, our guest relations team reached out to Mr. Garthwaite and provided a full refund for the gift cards purchased."

“I was very happy about that,” Garthwaite said.

Gift cards hanging on racks out-in-the-open may be vulnerable to tampering, so you should buy gift cards online whenever possible.

This story originally reported by Jackie Callaway on abcactionnews.com.