Gift card balance suddenly disappears

August 19, 2008 7:31:53 PM PDT
Many of us has either bought a gift card or received one as a present. But a South San Francisco woman is wondering how she could have bought one that was literally worthless.

It's not a new scam, but it's one that won't seem to go away despite new protections.

You can get a gift card for just about anything these days. And as the popularity of gift card rises, so do the opportunities for thieves.

Anna DeCastro of South San Francisco bought a $100 Visa gift card for her mom.

"The next day my mom tried to purchase something at Costco, it said it only had an 11 cent balance," said DeCastro.

Anna checked her account on line and found two purchases had been made on the card right after it was activated.

7 On Your Side first reported on this problem 15 months ago. Thieves were taking account numbers off cards displayed on store racks.

But retailers have gotten smarter, and hidden the account numbers from public view. Visa said it puts its gift cards in tamper evident packaging. But thieves seem to be finding a way around it.

Anna says more needs to be done.

"They should have gift cards in the back of the register. They shouldn't have it exposed so everyone can see it. People are looking at it and how about if they just rip it open," said DeCastro.

Anna purchased her visa gift card at Walgreens. Walgreens told 7 On Your Side it is still investigating this matter with Visa and does not know how it happened, but they agreed to send Anna a new gift card.

In a statement, Walgreens said: "We want to assure our customers we will make good on any product we sell. We apologize for the unusually long delay in this instance."

"The important thing was I got my money back. It's not the money, or the amount owed. It's the principal because it could happen to somebody else," said DeCastro.

Visa has a zero liability policy that protects the card holder from unauthorized purchases. Its policy does not apply to ATM transactions or certain pin transactions not processed by Visa.


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