Gift card scam warning

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's hard to hide the excitement when you receive that small envelope with the plastic card inside.  Gift cards are a very popular holiday gift.

"I love them. I love giving them and receiving them," said one shopper.

However, a scam making the rounds on Craigslist now could leave you empty handed.

Cards have many more consumer protections now than in years past.  Retailers can't saddle them with escalating costs or automatically declining balances and the expiration date has to be very visible.

It's where you get those cards that is raising some eyebrows. The Better Business Bureau is getting some calls from people who have been scammed buying discounted cards from Craigslist ads.

"You call someone and say you want that $100 gift card they've advertised for sale for $75.  You ask all the right questions, including how you can get some proof that it really has the advertised balance still on it," said Tom Bartholomy with the Charlotte chapter of the Better Business Bureau.

You're encouraged because the seller gives you the number on the back so you can call the retailer and confirm the balance before you meet to exchange cash for the card.  You make the call and the balance is accurate.

"I'm not just trusting this person.  I called and it's a real number and its telling me it has 100 percent of the value," Bartholomy adds.

The card does have the balance at the time you call.  Unfortunately, between that time and when you picked up the card from the seller and paid for it, even as little as 30 minutes, the scammer has spent all of the money on the card.  All they've sold you is a piece of plastic with no balance.

Experts will tell you if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.  Your best bet is to purchase gift cards only from reliable retailers so you're sure of what you're getting.

For more advice about buying gift cards, click here.

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