Scammers keep finding ways to drain gift cards

Canadians spend billions of dollars on gift cards each year and for the most part they're used successfully without any issues, but occasionally some gift cards turn up empty.

“Well first it looks bad, but I told them I wasn’t trying to play a Christmas trick on them,,” said Jason Cheng of Mississauga, who bought two $100 gift cards for his sisters as Christmas presents that turned out to have zero balances. 

Cheng bought the gift cards at Loblaws and thought they would make a nice gift to help them pay for groceries, but when they went to use them both had no funds. 

"When she (his sister) went online to check the card it did confirm on Dec. 15th that it was activated with $100, but somehow 2 days later the card was drained," said Cheng.

Samantha De Melo and her fiancé of Brampton purchased a home last year and her future brother in law gave them a $400 gift card for Home Depot as a house warming gift.

The gift card was purchased at Shoppers Drug Mart and when they went to use it the following month it was empty.

"I have no idea how it was used in store when the card was in my possession," said De Melo who added “as soon as we scanned the bar code it said there was no balance on the card." 

De Melo has been trying for the past eight months to get reimbursed for the gift card without success. 

"For us to be gifted such a generous gift from a family member and not being able to utilize it is really frustrating," said De Melo.

Gift card fraud is a growing problem and while there can be issues with gift cards if they're not activated correctly, thieves are also trying to steal the money off the cards before you can spend it. 

Thieves are using different tricks to empty gift cards, so to avoid gift card scams inspect gift cards carefully and look for signs of tampering. Avoid publicly displayed gift cards and purchase ones from behind the counter and always keep your receipts as proof of purchase. 

If you received a gift card you should try to use it as soon as possible in case there is a problem and don't forget about them as many gift cards are put away and never used, which is pure profit for the retailer. 

Loblaw, which is also the parent company of Shoppers Drug Mart told CTV News Toronto “Jason had contacted our Customer Care team about his recent experience. We’re in the process of investigating this matter and are currently awaiting a copy of his receipt. Please note that if this is found to be a case of fraud, we will issue replacement gift cards to the customer. Our colleagues are trained to recognize tampering, as well as other fraudulent situations involving the purchase of gift cards, and do our best to intercept cards that may be fraudulent before they are purchased.” 

Loblaw just reached out to Cheng and gave his sisters backs $100 each for their gift cards. Cheng said “I already told them next year, it's cold hard cash."

As for De Melo’s case the spokesperson added “We also appreciate you bringing Samantha’s experience to our attention. Our Customer Care team will be reaching out to her personally regarding her experience so we can investigate, as well. We look forward to speaking with her so we can resolve this issue.”