It seems innocent enough — someone says they’ll pay you for a retail gift card you haven’t used yet. They save a few bucks on the gift card, and you get cash you can use anywhere.
But beware. If you don’t know the buyer, there’s a good chance the offer might be a scam.
Fraudsters are ripping off people who want to sell their retail gift cards by stealing the card numbers and leaving them empty-handed. This isn’t isolated to Best Buy cards, but we have seen an increase in Best Buy gift card holders being targeted. Because of that, we want to make sure you’re aware of this scam and know how to avoid becoming a victim.
How the scam works
Scammers place ads on websites, such as Craigslist, saying they’ll pay a high percentage of your gift card’s value in cash. Upon receiving a message from a prospective seller, the “buyer” asks the seller to set up a conference call with the retailer’s gift card balance checker so they can confirm the card’s value.
But, unbeknownst to the seller, the “buyer” records the telephone call, including the touchtones entered into the system. Then the “buyer” uses something called a “DTMF decoder” — that’s dual-tone multifrequency — to convert those tones into the gift card number and PIN.
Once the scammer has that information, it’s as good as cash. And that cash is sure to vanish quickly. By the time the seller realizes what happened, the fraudster has drained the funds, rendering the original gift card worthless.
“Never provide a potential buyer with the gift card number or PIN,” said Kia Hakimi, senior director of enterprise information protection at Best Buy. “And be extremely wary of punching in your gift card number or PIN on a phone line where you might have someone else listening, because they might be able to decode the information without your knowledge.”
Do your research
If you want to sell a gift card for cash, do your research and only sell through reputable card-reselling websites after checking online reviews. In this situation, the new adage is “seller beware.”
Finally, if you believe you’ve been the victim of a gift card scam, call your local police department.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only gift card scam out there. Earlier this spring, we warned of fraudsters who were calling unsuspecting victims to instill panic and pressure them into buying gift cards.
Don’t ever give out gift card numbers to someone you don’t know, and remember that Best Buy gift cards can only be used to buy products or services from Best Buy. If someone asks you to use a gift card as a way to send them money, it’s likely a scam.
Go to BestBuy.com to learn more about gift card terms and conditions.