East Bay police explain what you need to know about new gift card scam

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Double check gift cards in packaging at checkout amid new scam: police
Pinole Police Department is warning shoppers of a new gift card scam going around this holiday season where scammers are stealing barcodes.

PINOLE, Calif. (KGO) -- An East Bay Police Department is warning shoppers of a new gift card scam going around this holiday season.

They say it's something that customers have fallen for inside of grocery stores.

"When the person buys the card, they have a barcode that is visible on the outside of the envelope. This is what's scanned at the register," said Sgt. Barry Duggan of the Pinole Police Department.

Pinole Police are taking to social media, posting this video warning shoppers of the latest gift card scam after at least one person fell victim to it at a local drug store.

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"We got a call of a community member that was trying to return a gift card or was trying to get their money back on a gift card because it was cut. So, one of our sergeants responded to that call and said, 'Oh, this is a scam that we've been seeing' and now we're seeing it for the first time," said Natasha Valdepena, a spokesperson for the Pinole Police Department.

So, police are trying to stop it.

"Somebody was taking all these cards from the store without paying for them and without loading them up, taking them home. And what they do, is they heat up these envelopes to where they can open them as carefully as they can, remove the card and actually cut the top of the card off," Duggan said.

An officer explains how scammers could steal your money, by taking the top half of a card, resealing it and placing it back on the store shelf.

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Then, they just wait for you to load your money onto the card and use it with the code they stole.

"They're cutting that, and they're carefully putting that back so that that barcode is just placed in the center, so you can't see that it's cut off and then they're taking that code. And then, when you go and place your money onto that card, it no longer is the drug store's money," Valdepena said. "It goes to Amazon. It's now their money. And so we're thinking, they've got all these cards, and they're just running them every day waiting for a hit on the card."

This is why this holiday season, the Pinole Police Department is reminding every shopper to remove those gift card envelopes at check out to double check before buying.

"Go ahead and open that card. Make sure that the barcode is there. Make sure that it's not cut off. Make sure that it hasn't been tampered with," Valdepena said. "Because if you're going to see that, if you see that before you leave the store, you already know -- even if it was a mistake, even if it was accidentally -- you're going to know, this card is probably not going to be able to be used. The money won't be on it."

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