Last-minute shoppers have something more sinister to worry about than just finding a list minute gift for friends and family this holiday season. The NYPD is warning about a new scam targeting unsuspecting New Yorkers buying gift cards at retail stores here on the Upper East Side and across the five boroughs.
Here’s how the scam works: crooks will print their own bar code stickers and place them over the bar code on the real gift cards within the store.
Then, when an unsuspecting victim picks up the gift card and pays to activate the card, the clerk will scan the phony bar code — linked to a different account to which the scammers have access — routing your money directly to the scammers’ account instead of placing the balance on the card.
The NYPD was tipped off to the new scam by Organized Retail Crime Investigators working for CVS, who alerted the 19th Precinct, which serves the Upper East Side.
Last week, Detective Anthony Nuccio, an 19th Precinct Crime Prevention Officer, spoke to Upper East Side CVS customers to spread awareness of the new scam, warning neighbors to check their gift cards before making a purchase.
These are the tips Det. Nuccio says could prevent you from falling victim to the new scam:
- Inspect the barcode on the gift card prior to purchase by scratching the corner. If it peels off, it’s a fake.
- Ensure the barcode printed on the gift card matches the barcode printed on the gift card packaging.
- When the gift card barcode is scanned by the cashier, the type of gift card displayed on the point-of-sale machine should match the card itself. If not, immediately cancel the transaction.
Police also say if you notice anything suspicious about a gift card, you should notify the store manager immediately.