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'It’s a scam': Guelph woman warns of gift card tampering


A Guelph woman is warning others to be vigilant this holiday season when buying gift cards on display at retailers.

Menalyn Santillana said she nearly fell victim to buying tampered gift cards twice at her local Walmart, on Woodlawn Road.

“I freaked out, of course, like this is real. It’s true. It’s happening,” she said. “It’s a scam.”

On Tuesday she went to the store to purchase gift cards as Christmas gifts, but she said before she went to the cashier, she ran her finger along the gift cards barcode and noticed the texture of the barcode was raised.

“I’d seen there’s a sticker [barcode] on top of the barcode itself,” she explained.

A Guelph woman said she noticed there was something different about the gift card she was about to purchase. (Submitted/Menalyn Santillana)

Santilliana said she was too nervous to buy the gift cards that day, so she left empty handed.

When she returned to the store the next day, she noticed the same thing.

Guelph Police said they are aware of this scam, and said it is happening across the entire retail sector.

“Essentially what fraudsters are doing is they’re coming into businesses that have like the big rolodex of different types of gift cards. They’re taking some of the gift cards without purchasing them, taking them home and then they’re laser printing barcodes of gift cards that they personally own, sticking it over top of the barcode,” said Det. Brooke Drake with Guelph Police’s fraud unit.

The scammers then bring the tampered cards back to the store.

“So you’re loading money onto their card, as opposed to purchasing a gift card for whomever,” said Det. Drake.

Police said there are several ways to spot a fraudulent gift card.

First, look at the barcode to see if it’s raised. If is it, peel the sticker off.

Second, check to see if the gift card that being purchased matches the description on the cashier’s computer.

“Let’s say you’re picking up an Amazon gift card for $50 … [the cashier] will ring it in and it could come up as an LCBO gift card, a PlayStation card, it could come up as anything,” said. Det. Drake. “That’s the card that the fraudster personally has in their name, so you’re loading money onto their card.”

Jon Rumley, the manager of corporate affairs with Walmart Canada said in a statement, “we take concerns of this nature seriously and investigate them promptly.”

“Walmart Canada issues and processes thousands of gift cards daily and incidents of gift card tampering are extremely rare. Gift card tampering is a challenge for all retailers, especially at this time of year. That’s why we have measures in place to protect our customers, including in-store signage and tips online about best practices for gift card fraud prevention. To further protect our customers, our gift card displays are in high-traffic areas and our associates are trained to regularly monitor gift cards for signs of tampering.”

Santillana said she wanted to spread the word, to help others from getting scammed.

“Just double check your gift card. Just make sure the back of your gift card is very plain – there’s no sticker on it. If you’re aware of it, you’ll notice it. But if not, you won’t notice it,” she said. Top Stories

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