Target customer shares how to tell if a gift card has been used

@kryssoli/TikTok Retail Photographer/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘Happened to me with an Ulta gift card for $100’: Target customer shares how to tell if a gift card has been used

'happened to me last year with two gift cards'


Jack Alban


Posted on Dec 9, 2023   Updated on Dec 9, 2023, 5:18 pm CST

A Target customer revealed a gift card scam some scummy con artists are implementing as a means of trying to trick folks into adding money to account balances that they have access to.

It’s a simple hustle: The thieves purchase gift cards but maintain the packaging to look like it’s as new as possible, then keep a record of the gift card access information. By putting these “new” gift cards on the shelves of popular retailers, like Target, unknowing customers “purchase” these cards and add a balance to them. Scammers then check the balances of the card they leave on shelves and spend the money before you, or whoever you planned on gifting it to, can get a chance to enjoy it.

Krys (@kryssoli) delineated some common things to look out for when you’re purchasing gift cards from Target to ensure you aren’t falling prey to these gift card balance vultures.

“We have new scams. Be cautious, flip the cards over, there’s one of them you can tell that it’s been covered,” she then pulls up the paper packaging to reveal the bar code sticker on the back of the gift card. Peaking underneath the barcode sticker is a grey, shiny message that reads: “check balance,” according to the TikToker, if you see one of these stickers covering up the back of the card in such a manner, then someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes and those gift cards have been used already.

“There’s a second one,” she says, grabbing another scammed gift card. “Regular card, flip it, this looks good,” she comments, noticing the standard bar code through the gift card window that is actually a part of the card and not a printed sticker meant to dupe folks into thinking it still has a balance.

However, when it comes time to inspect the shiny grey sticker on the bottom of card, she demonstrates how scammers are appending stickers over the original area. The balance has already been used on these particular cards, leaving customers footing the bill for someone else’s gift card spending habits.

As a means of combating this type of fraud, Krys suggests in a caption for the video that customers, instead, get their gift cards from behind the cashier’s station, and not display walls located in the store. The ones behind the register are much less likely to be tampered with than the ones hanging around a bunch of candies and clearance seasonal knick-knacks.

According to several folks who responded to Krys’ post, this seems to be a security measure that more and more stores are electing to follow as well. “My store now keeps a sample on the shelf and the cashier gives your the one you want. At least for the target ones,” one person wrote.

@kryssoli Tis the season for fraud card at Target. DO NOT BUY YOUR CARD OF THE WALL, GET THEM FROM THE CASHIERS! #Targetgiftcardscams #FYP #TARGET ♬ original sound – Krys

Someone else proposed a different way to avoid getting scammed by gift cards, by swearing off of them completely and sending people alternative forms of monetary presents: “This is why I use digital GCs now or I’ll just send them money thru my bank lol.”

Unfortunately, there were other TikTok users, like this Ulta customer, who said that they fell prey to a gift card scam that left them in the hole. “Happened to me with an Ulta card for $100 and they didn’t care. Was out the $$$$,” they wrote.

But for those who are intent on purchasing physical gift cards from off the rack, then maybe adhering to this TikToker’s tried-and-true method of mitigating fraud could be helpful. “I never take the first few cards on the slot, I always will take from the middle to try to avoid this,” wrote one user.

There are some who may contend that gift cards themselves are absolute scams. According to Real Simple, there’s about $21 billion in unused gift card balances just floating around. That accounts for gift cards lost underneath car seats, dropped in a sewer grates, or left in attic boxes—never to be used. With all of the forms of digital currency transfers one wonders why someone would ever purchase a piece of plastic that allows consumers to only spend a certain amount of money at a specific store, instead of just writing the person a check or sending them a Venmo message appended with a gift box emoji?

Maybe it doesn’t have the same “feel,” but at least you could spend that money on whatever you want instead of at just one retailer.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Target via email and Krys via TikTok comment for further information.

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*First Published: Dec 9, 2023, 5:30 pm CST