Graduation Gift Card Scams.

It’s graduation season— but unfortunately that also means it’s time for graduation gift card scams. Every year people fall tricks with gift cards, but we’ll show you some of the biggest things to look for! You can avoid these scams, read on to find out how.


So what are graduation gift card scams?

These scams actually happen year round, but certain times of the year see an increase. Criminals know that grads can be difficult to buy gifts for, and know more people will buy gift cards. So they swipe gift cards in the store to make illegal copies and wait for someone to activate the card.

After someone purchases the card, store employees activate it. And criminals with the card data in hand proceed to make a copy for their own purposes. Oftentimes, crooks spend the money on the gift card before the victim even gives the gift.


Don’t crooks need the PIN on the back of the card?

Yes, most gift cards have a PIN on the back of the card that the crooks need. Without this, they cannot tell if the card they copied is active. But many gift cards don’t cover the PIN at all, and those that do cover it still have workarounds.

In many cases, the scratch off covers that hide the PIN can be peeled back and removed. Then criminals record the PIN and replace the cover, and most people don’t ever notice. Crooks can also buy the covers online, and just replace it on cards they scratch the coating off.

Albuquerque Gift Card Scams Tampering
Take a look at the signs of tampering in this photo by Flint Gatrell. Crooks have peeled back and replaced the coating on the top two cards, leaving creases in the plastic or other damages. The bottom card appears genuine. (Image source is

So how do I avoid graduation gift card scams?

There’s several things you can do to avoid graduation gift card scams like these. First, be sure to check the card’s PIN cover. If it looks at all like criminals removed it, don’t but it. Crooks have to work fast at this, so there are often signs to look for. Unusual creases around the edges, peeling or cracks in the coating, or even uneven placement all point to tampering.

It’s also a good idea to buy cards from the middle of the rack. Crooks hope for a quick turnaround, so they often place copied cards at the front of the rack. Buying from the middle may save you some headaches.

Cards behind checkout counters or next to registers are also closer to watching eyes, and may be less frequent targets. So racks in these areas may be safer than those further away, but still double check for tampering. After you buy it, be sure to check the funds as well to verify the correct amount is there.


Other questions on graduation gift card scams?

If you need more info or have any other questions, please feel free to contact us. We at Astria are committed to improving cyber security across the southwest and are happy to help you with these issues how ever we can. But armed with this info, you can help stop graduation gift card scams!

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