Common Christmas Gift Card Scams and How to Avoid Them

The holidays are a busy time that sees people juggling countless tasks in order to prepare for all the end-of-year festivities. The Christmas season is amazing, but it is not without its stresses. Many people have to figure out gifts for their family members, finalize travel plans, figure out how to spend their vacation days and budget out their last month of expenses. During this hectic time, many people look into gift cards as an amazing gift option for their friends and family.

Gift cards are easy to purchase and easy to spend. As long as you know what your friends and family like, you can pick out a gift card that lets them go purchase something fun in the new year. Gift cards are a very popular gift for the Christmas season! 

Scammers know this too, unfortunately. They are out to take advantage of people looking for an easy and exciting gift for their friends and family, robbing them of their gift-giving funds. Let’s look into how you can avoid Christmas gift card scams. 

Common Christmas Gift Card Scams

Gift cards are a popular gift around the holidays for various reasons, including ease of purchase, low risk, and price flexibility. You can spend a specific amount on gift cards for friends and family rather than look at gifts within a small price range. Gift cards are also spectacular because finding a gift you know the recipient will like is easier. 

When they don’t give a list of possible gifts, it is easy to go for a gift card to ensure they will love it. From there, you can get a gift card to a store they shop at regularly. You can also purchase a prepaid Visa card, which is just about the ultimate gift. Gift cards are very popular, and with good reason.

Scammers are counting on the popularity of gift cards to catch people unaware and make off with their gifts.  Let’s take a look at some ways scammers tamper with gift cards. 

Gift Card Number Theft

One common gift card scam comes from thieves who copy down gift card numbers, steal the PIN, and then return the gift card to a “like new” state. They usually create stickers that match the ones that usually cover the PIN, making it difficult to tell that cards have been tampered with. From there, they wait for an unsuspecting customer to purchase and activate the card, then use the now active card number and PIN to drain the card’s balance. 

Some criminals also leave the PIN intact and set a computer program to try to brute force the PIN. Since the PINs are usually only four digits, it makes it possible for a hacker to crack the code before you use the card at all. 

When you purchase a prepaid gift card (Visa or Mastercard, for instance), make sure to change the PIN immediately after you activate it. This limits the chances that your gift card is compromised. 

Physical Gift Card Tampering

Another common scam sees criminals creating doctored gift cards where they make official-looking stickers with a fraudulent bar code. They place these on cards that have not yet been sold. Anytime a customer purchases one of these cards and loads it with money, the money goes to a criminal’s card instead of the consumer’s. 

To protect against this scam, check a few gift cards at the store. Make sure they all have different barcodes and that there are no signs of physical gift card tampering visible on any of them. 

When purchasing gift cards, try to find a store that has restricted access to the cards. Smaller retailers that have gift cards behind the counter or in clear view of at least one employee at all times are far more secure than large walls of cards further in the store. Check for camera coverage, as well. 

These two scams are more common among prepaid gift cards like Visa and Mastercard gift cards, but crafty scammers can mess with any physical card on location. 

Fraudulent Gift Card Acquisition

Scammers send bulk texts to ask for gift cards from unsuspecting victims. These messages come in many varieties, sometimes asking for a gift card as payment for a bill or service that you have yet to pay. For instance, a text might come in saying that you can donate to a charity or organization by purchasing an e-gift card and sending it to their number or email. 

Remember: charities and organizations do not ask for gift card payments over the phone. Make donations on the official website or portal of any charity to which you want to donate. 

Scams are out there, and we must keep them in mind to avoid them better. AI's increased usability and complexity have elevated their game, as scammers can automate more processes and acquire more targets. Stay vigilant when you make purchases online, never disclose personal information over text, and always contact a company through their official website if someone reaches out to you about a donation. 

Keep a keen eye to avoid Christmas gift card scams this holiday season. 

Buy Gift Cards for the Holidays

It is important to stay vigilant regarding scams, but that doesn’t detract from how awesome gift cards are for the holidays. Christmas gift cards serve as great gifts for friends and family. You can purchase gift cards at just about any price point, meaning they provide tremendous flexibility to anyone who wants to use them as a whole or as a part of gifts this holiday season. 

You can make a big gift card the centerpiece of someone’s gift. There are countless stores, including restaurants, cafes, and more, where a large gift card funds multiple trips. This is great! A $25 Dunkin’ gift card, for instance, lets them purchase a number of coffee drinks before the gift card is spent. 

Small gift cards make amazing gifts alongside the centerpiece, be it a larger gift card or something else. With these gift cards, we recommend sticking with stores the recipient frequents. A $5 gift card can sit unused in a place like Banana Republic or Hollister because the total bill will still be quite high! 

There are a lot of safe and reliable ways to purchase gift cards online and avoid Christmas gift card scams. 

Earn Cash Back On Christmas Gift Cards with Gift Card Granny

As a quick reminder, we’ve pointed out all of the retailers on this list that you can find on Gift Card Granny as of this writing. Gift Card Granny makes it easy to buy and send customized gift cards online and earn cash back while you do. Gift Card Granny carries thousands of local and national brands, including Visa gift cards, Mastercard gift cards, and gift cards for many of the awesome spots on this list.

Text eGift Cards on GiftYa

Another popular gift-giving site is GiftYa, which also offers customizable eGift cards! GiftYa lets you add custom photos or videos to all your gifts in the form of a virtual gift wrapper. A GiftYa can be sent by text or email, so the gift is always delivered within minutes. You can also schedule the gift to be sent on a specific date, such as a birthday or holiday. 

Let’s jump into some of our favorite Christmas gift cards! 

Top 5 Christmas Gift Cards 

We want to highlight some of our favorite Christmas gift cards to help you research which gift card to get each of your family members. 

1. Panera Bread

They’ve got it all. A gift card to Panera Bread is always enjoyed!

Get a Panera Bread gift card.

Panera Bread is an excellent Christmas gift card. Soup season is upon us, and in this most wonderfully cold time of the year, Panera Bread is uniquely equipped with all manner of warming dishes, from savory soups to fresh bread and morning bagels, coffee, and hot cocoa. This gift card is best enjoyed in the wintertime, when the cold is upon us, and these dishes can be enjoyed to the max. 

Get a Panera Bread gift card.

2. UberEats

For the meal accompanying a relaxing no-cook night

Get an Uber Eats gift card.

Uber Eats gift cards never go out of style. One of the dangers of getting a gift card is that it isn’t used in the first month or so, and then it is forgotten and is resting either in a piece of plastic or in a long-forgotten code deep in their e-mail. Some gift cards, of which UberEats is one, allow the recipient to upload their gift code straight into the app where it will automatically be used the next time they order. Uber Eats is a great retailer of Christmas gift cards. 

Uber Eats gift cards let the user pick out an amazing meal from a nearby restaurant and get it delivered straight to their door. This is a great gift card, even at low dollar amounts, as even a $5 card will cover the additional fees associated with this service!

Get an Uber Eats gift card.

3. L.L. Bean

Gear for every season

Buy an L.L. Bean gift card

An outdoor recreation products company, L.L. Bean has a catalog of impressive products ranging from camping gear to technical backpacks and accessories. L.L. Bean manufactures its products to ensure your comfort in any weather. 

While the recipient may not be climbing any mountains in the near future, proper outerwear is essential if they have any outdoor projects in the colder months. L.L. Bean is a great choice for winter gear and is always a nice Christmas gift card. 

Buy an L.L. Bean gift card

4. Amazon

The gift card of gift cards this holiday season

Buy an Amazon gift card

Amazon gift cards will always be a solid Christmas gift card. If you aren’t sure what to get them, an Amazon gift card covers basically all of the bases. On top of that, it is very easy to convert an Amazon gift card to cash in their Amazon wallet, where it is automatically added to their next purchase. 

Amazon has an unending quantity of items across every imaginable sector. Your friends and family might already have a list of stuff they plan to purchase from Amazon in the future. 

Gift Card Granny does not offer Amazon gift cards now, but you can snag one at GiftYa!

5. Yankee Candle

Everyone can use a new scented candle

Buy a Yankee Candle Gift Card

Yankee Candle® Gift Card

Last but not least, we have a gift card for Yankee Candle. This colossus among scented candle stores has countless amazing scented candles of all shapes and sizes. Lighting a new candle fills up the whole house with a subtle and pleasant scent. Yankee Candles are pretty expensive, but they are fragrant and last a long time, and your gift card makes the trip even more exciting. With a Yankee Candle gift card, your friends and family can visit the store and peruse their next candle. Half the fun of a Yankee Candle is checking out all possible scents. With different kinds of candles in all shapes and sizes, the experience of shopping for their candle is a gift unto itself. 

Yankee Candles set the tone for working, thinking, or relaxing. A bright candle is essential for any night in. We are certain your friends will cherish the opportunity to go out and purchase a new candle from this amazing store. The next time they settle down to relax, be it by reading, watching TV, or working on a project, we are certain they will be thankful for your candle to keep them company. 

Buy a Yankee Candle Gift Card

Avoid Christmas gift card scams this year! 

We hope that you make it through this year and all years in the foreseeable future without falling victim to a Christmas gift card scam. Always double-check URLs to ensure they are tied to the company, and reach out through official channels if you are ever uncertain about a message that masquerades as something official. 

From all of us here at Gift Card Granny: Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!