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I find this quite puzzling but at a certain WalMart store in Southern California, my wife bought a prepaid AMEX card for $100 as a gift for her aunt last week. Her aunt later told her that she was unable to use the card. The first digit of the middle group of numbers and the last group of numbers were scratched out like with a nail file or something. Also, the magnetic stripe on the back has the ends on both sides scratched off. Thus the card cannot be swiped and with the numbers missing on the face used. She took the card back to WalMart and they told her to deal with American Express and said that there were other cases of customers returning these "defaced" cards. At first, we thought a cashier had swapped it for a fake to rip her off. So, out of curiosity, she went to the shelf where the prepaid cards were located. Took another one and ripped it open and it shows exactly the same thing with the digits missing and the stripe damaged at both ends. She said there were some creases on the packaging to possibly show that it was opened and re-sealed. Some questions come to mind:

1. The cards have no value until activated so why steal these numbers in advance? Unless the list of numbers stolen were run on a daily basis, how does one know it was activated?

2. Could this be a mass manufacturing error?

3. I google'd this but nothing seemed to show up so is this an isolated incident? Is this WalMart scamming people?

4. With the two digits missing, that means the real number could be one of 100 possible combination. Would a credit card checksum program be used to identify the missing two digits?


XXXX OXXXXX OXXXX

X=digits present
O=digits scratched off

Any ways, we were told that WalMart couldn't refund these cards and to contact AMEX for resolution. Will update this post as I get more info.

--> Hope this info will inform people to check their gift cards at before purchase to avoid getting ripped off.

Edit: Pictures uploaded. I deliberately put the RED SQUARE on the front of the card to conceal the entire number but you can see scratches where the digits are supposed to be.

Small Update: Actual card number identified (see post #50 or so) but doesn't seem to be the original card that came with the envelope.

Final Update: Resolution at post #109.

Member Summary
Most Recent Posts
Fixing AMEX's business model is most definitely not OP's problem (and I wouldn't expect him to go that far).

What he did ... (more)

gatzdon (Jun. 22, 2012 @ 7:40a) |

I agree. Shutting down the entire scam, hunting down the animals that did this and shooting them in the face with a sho... (more)

donotdrinkPBR (Jun. 22, 2012 @ 8:50a) |

So sorry, mein herr.
I still dare him to walk into Carousel on Hollywood Blvd and say something like that.

tuphat (Jun. 22, 2012 @ 11:49a) |

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Seems pretty simple. Crooks are defacing the cards so that they can be purchased but not used. They can swipe them every few days to see which ones have been purchased. I hope you at least got WalMart to remove the rest of the defaced cards.

Nope, she informed the Customer Service people and they said they don't have authorization to remove them and *most* of them might be legit. I'm not surprised; I mean, we're talking about WalMart here.

Thanks for the heads up. I already consider it a best practice to open up the card package at the register just to make sure. Gift cards have been a gold mine for scammers for quite a while now.

Hopefully when your wife bought them, she used a credit card.

Another very common scam is pasting a fake bar code at the back of Visa cards. So when you activate a card, you are actually activating a card that the scamster has it. The moment you activate it, they empty the card.

Visa is well aware of it. I actually caught couple of these cards at Ralph's and Albertsons. Stores don't do anything. But Visa did reimburse full amount though.

SUCKISSTAPLES said:   Yes this is becoming a common scam

The crooks get the inactive cards ,Take them home , scratch the numbers off then put them back on the shelves at the store

Then they keep hitting the number till a card gets activated by a cashier

Usually Armenian scammers in LA


I've never used nor purchased one of them, but besides being activated by the cashier at the store it was purchase; doesn't the same card needs to be activated by the issuer?

fattywallace said:   but besides being activated by the cashier at the store it was purchase; doesn't the same card needs to be activated by the issuer?No, paying for its purchase activates the plastic card

fattywallace said:   SUCKISSTAPLES said:   Yes this is becoming a common scam

The crooks get the inactive cards ,Take them home , scratch the numbers off then put them back on the shelves at the store

Then they keep hitting the number till a card gets activated by a cashier

Usually Armenian scammers in LA


I've never used nor purchased one of them, but besides being activated by the cashier at the store it was purchase; doesn't the same card needs to be activated by the issuer?

Scammer has already taken down the number or cloned the card, before returning it to the store.

Alcibiades said:   fattywallace said:   but besides being activated by the cashier at the store it was purchase; doesn't the same card needs to be activated by the issuer?No, paying for its purchase activates the plastic card

Ah, so this scumbacks first steel the card, re-seal them and place them back on the shelves of the stores they stole them from, to later wait until someone purchase them, get them activated during the purchase thus free use of OPM's?

I hate to say it but, this is freaking brilliant; although I do not condone nor have the balls to do it myself, nevertheless brilliant!

OP,

Was there any sign of usage on the wraps, packaging upon purchase?

good heads up

Didn't WalMart have to swipe the card in order to activate it and load a value on to it?

TrueKnight said:   Nope, she informed the Customer Service people and they said they don't have authorization to remove them and *most* of them might be legit. I'm not surprised; I mean, we're talking about WalMart here.
Did you speak to a manager or someone higher up; or was this some minimum wage floor person.

Seems like AMEX would know if an inactive card is trying to be used, correct? So there would be a pretty easy fix of at least disabling the numbers on inactive cards that are tested X number of times so that the thieves can't get the money? At least if the first presumption is true.

Credit cards are coded with the the Luhn algorithm. The last digit is a check digit. With 2 digits missing, there are 10 possible solutions. Start 0 as the first digit and find the number that makes the check digit correct all the way up to 9.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luhn_algorithm

corporateclaw said:   Seems like AMEX would know if an inactive card is trying to be used, correct? So there would be a pretty easy fix of at least disabling the numbers on inactive cards that are tested X number of times so that the thieves can't get the money? At least if the first presumption is true.
Or you could know which cards are on the shelves, then when one goes missing(sold) empty the account.

So why would they scratch out the numbers?

aares said:   So why would they scratch out the numbers?

I guess to make it harder for the legitimate recipient to use the card before the criminals can use the balance.

I work at a major grocery store where we sell the same type of prepaid gift cards. A common practice a couple years ago was to steal a bunch of the cards, copy the barcode that is on the back of the card, print it out onto glossy paper, place the printed barcode over a new card, and return it to the store. A few hours/days later, someone will come by and purchase it. The cashier will scan the card bar code that was printed out, which will activate that card that they have at home. A gift recipient may not find out for a couple days that the card they are holding has no value.

It is now harder to do this, but not impossible. Gift cards are now coming with raised barcodes that can not be printed or come in blister packs.

Sounds like the thieves took the gift cards home, opened them up, wrote all the prepaid credit card numbers down, and made it so that the recipient would not know what the credit card number was. By the time they report it, the thieves will have already emptied the account.

propcgamer said:   aares said:   So why would they scratch out the numbers?

I guess to make it harder for the legitimate recipient to use the card before the criminals can use the balance.

The recipient won't Be able to use the card , and also won't know what the card number is , and wont be able to call in to AMEX . They'll have to go back to the purchasing store. This gives enough time for scammers to drain it

Last year when OfficeMax was selling $100 Visa/Mastercard gift cards for $90, I wondered why the store had them each secured in a plastic security box. Now I understand why the did this....

TrueKnight said:   4. With the two digits missing, that means the real number could be one of 100 possible combination. Would a credit card checksum program be used to identify the missing two digits?

Here you go. Create an empty HTML document on your desktop and paste the following code into the document. Then run it and enter the 3 parts of your CC number (the part before the first X, the part between Xs and the part after the 2nd X). Click the Run button and it prints out the 10 possible valid combinations.





<SCRIPT>
String.prototype.isValidCC = function()
{
var luhnArr = [[0,2,4,6,8,1,3,5,7,9],[0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9]], sum = 0;
this.replace(/\D+/g,"").replace(/[\d]/g, function(c, p, o){
sum += luhnArr[ (o.length-p)&1 ][ parseInt(c,10) ];
});
return (sum%10 === 0) && (sum > 0);
};

function doCalculate(f)
{
var div = document.getElementById('divOutput');
div.innerHTML = "";
for(i=0; i<=9; i++)
{
for(j=0; j<=9; j++)
{
var ccnum = f.P1.value+i+f.P2.value+j+f.P3.value;
if (ccnum.isValidCC())
div.innerHTML += ccnum + "
";
}
}
};
</SCRIPT>


<FORM>
<INPUT TYPE='text' SIZE=12 NAME='P1'> X <INPUT TYPE='text' SIZE=12 NAME='P2'> X <INPUT TYPE='text' SIZE=12 NAME='P3'>

<INPUT TYPE='button' VALUE='Run' onClick='doCalculate(this.form)'>
</FORM>


<DIV ID='divOutput'></DIV>

RudolfSchmidt said:   Didn't WalMart have to swipe the card in order to activate it and load a value on to it?

Most of the new gift cards have a swipe strip on the outside of the paper packaging. So they scan the bar code, and then swipe the package, they never swipe the card itself to activate it.

uutxs said:   TrueKnight said:   Nope, she informed the Customer Service people and they said they don't have authorization to remove them and *most* of them might be legit. I'm not surprised; I mean, we're talking about WalMart here.
Did you speak to a manager or someone higher up; or was this some minimum wage floor person.
I don't know why this got red. If you're going to shop at Wal-Mart, you have to realize that the CSMs (customer service managers) are usually idiots. The only people that are somewhat competant are the asst store managers and the store manager. Demand to see the store manager. CSMs are worthless.

bippie said:   Last year when OfficeMax was selling $100 Visa/Mastercard gift cards for $90, I wondered why the store had them each secured in a plastic security box. Now I understand why the did this....

and this would be the best solution, or keep them behing the cashier desk, that way they would be harder to steal.

jacekrsx said:   bippie said:   Last year when OfficeMax was selling $100 Visa/Mastercard gift cards for $90, I wondered why the store had them each secured in a plastic security box. Now I understand why the did this....

and this would be the best solution, or keep them behing the cashier desk, that way they would be harder to steal.


Agreed. Or, put them out on the shelf inside a plastic box that can only be unlocked by a store associate.

FW10001 said:   jacekrsx said:   bippie said:   Last year when OfficeMax was selling $100 Visa/Mastercard gift cards for $90, I wondered why the store had them each secured in a plastic security box. Now I understand why the did this....

and this would be the best solution, or keep them behing the cashier desk, that way they would be harder to steal.


Agreed. Or, put them out on the shelf inside a plastic box that can only be unlocked by a store associate.


Pass... I dont want to wait a hour to find someone with a key to open the box like in electronics.

It's only a matter of time before losses mount for the card issuers, and we switch to the chip-and-pin EMV cards like Europe.

jacekrsx said:   bippie said:   Last year when OfficeMax was selling $100 Visa/Mastercard gift cards for $90, I wondered why the store had them each secured in a plastic security box. Now I understand why the did this....

and this would be the best solution, or keep them behing the cashier desk, that way they would be harder to steal.


You're assuming that members of the staff are not complicit in the scam. I suspect that some are, considering that it would seem to be difficult to restock a section of gift cards (since they'd have the GCs in batches) as a customer. Especially since there are security cameras all over the place.

JTausTX said:   jacekrsx said:   bippie said:   Last year when OfficeMax was selling $100 Visa/Mastercard gift cards for $90, I wondered why the store had them each secured in a plastic security box. Now I understand why the did this....

and this would be the best solution, or keep them behing the cashier desk, that way they would be harder to steal.


You're assuming that members of the staff are not complicit in the scam. I suspect that some are, considering that it would seem to be difficult to restock a section of gift cards (since they'd have the GCs in batches) as a customer. Especially since there are security cameras all over the place.


Well I highly doubt they took the whole section then tried to put them back the next day. You could easily take 5-10 of these from many different retailers and never even be noticed. Then return them to different retailers or even the same ones. I good Loss Prevention guy may be able to spot these people but could take a lot of time.

FragOut said:   JTausTX said:   jacekrsx said:   bippie said:   Last year when OfficeMax was selling $100 Visa/Mastercard gift cards for $90, I wondered why the store had them each secured in a plastic security box. Now I understand why the did this....

and this would be the best solution, or keep them behing the cashier desk, that way they would be harder to steal.


You're assuming that members of the staff are not complicit in the scam. I suspect that some are, considering that it would seem to be difficult to restock a section of gift cards (since they'd have the GCs in batches) as a customer. Especially since there are security cameras all over the place.


Well I highly doubt they took the whole section then tried to put them back the next day. You could easily take 5-10 of these from many different retailers and never even be noticed. Then return them to different retailers or even the same ones. I good Loss Prevention guy may be able to spot these people but could take a lot of time.


Or what about just taking a picture of the numbers with your phone, in the store?

Quikboy4 said:   Or what about just taking a picture of the numbers with your phone, in the store?The CC number and most other important numbers on the gift card are hidden by the packaging.

TrueKnight said:   Also, the magnetic stripe on the back has the ends on both sides scratched off. Thus the card cannot be swipedCannot swipe the card, cannot use online, cannot check the balance, and w/o a card number its almost useless to call AMEX ... Evil

And it will take some time for the person who received as a gift to even know where it was bought. AMEX wont know since the card number is incomplete, only the original purchaser will know

seems like the effort-risk-reward ratios of such a scam is pretty weak

nwill002 said:   seems like the effort-risk-reward ratios of such a scam is pretty weak

Unless the thief hits a store used by a heavy churner...PROFIT!

This is OT (sorry) but I am trying to find the thread we had here in FWF a while back that lists the retailers who carry gift cards to other retailers. I searched and only found an old thread from 2006.

Does anyone have the link to the newer thread please? Thanks!

newbietx said:   This is OT (sorry) but I am trying to find the thread we had here in FWF a while back that lists the retailers who carry gift cards to other retailers. I searched and only found an old thread from 2006.

Does anyone have the link to the newer thread please? Thanks!


Kmart and Staples are 2 that I'm aware of.

suezyque said:   newbietx said:   This is OT (sorry) but I am trying to find the thread we had here in FWF a while back that lists the retailers who carry gift cards to other retailers. I searched and only found an old thread from 2006.

Does anyone have the link to the newer thread please? Thanks!


Kmart and Staples are 2 that I'm aware of.


Thanks, there was a thread more recently (like in last few months) which listed the various retailers and the list of gift cards that each of them carried. I am looking for that thread.

newbietx said:   This is OT (sorry) but I am trying to find the thread we had here in FWF a while back that lists the retailers who carry gift cards to other retailers. I searched and only found an old thread from 2006.

Does anyone have the link to the newer thread please? Thanks!


Old thread was archived and quick summary was lost. Quick summary has been restored to here: http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/1001041/

Skipping 75 Messages...
Vanilla10 said:   tuphat said:   SUCKISSTAPLES said:   Usually Armenian scammers in LA

Whuzup with the ethnic stereotyping?
Not cool.


C'mon, he did say "usually."


So sorry, mein herr.
I still dare him to walk into Carousel on Hollywood Blvd and say something like that.



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