People do search for how to activate a gift card without scanning it. But is this even possible? The average person would say, “No, you can’t activate a gift card without scanning it.” But what if?
Scammers, or should we say “determined people” do find a way to get not-scanned gift cards activated. They then use the cards for games, at local restaurants, etc.
After taking the gift card off the rack, it needs to be activated. Otherwise, it is a worthless piece of plastic.
The sale needs to be registered by the store on the gift card database to activate it. The database is also able to reveal the stolen status of a card if it was stolen.
Anyone in possession would then be charged for theft. Without activating a gift card, it cannot receive withdrawal transactions or, in some cases, additional deposits. All payment transactions would be declined since the card links to a temporary bank account that has not been activated.
And if it is so easy to get away with a gift card without scanning it, gift card holders would be getting phishing calls from fake IRS agents trying to get them to buy gift cards to pay off government debt or end up in FBI prison.
Activate a gift card without scanning it – what scammers do
Somehow, gift card scanning for activation can be bypassed, though not a walk in the park. Below are ways a scammer can activate a gift card without scanning it:
Duplicating the UPC
The UPC (Universal Product Code) on gift cards can be duplicated by creating multiple identical UPC barcodes. So, when a customer buys a gift card with the identical UPC, a scammer May then proceed to add the money to any cards using that particular barcode.
It may even be possible to transfer the money into their bank or spend it before the customer does.
Read also: SSN can buy you stuff on online?
There are claims that duplicating UPC will not work since the UPC is the same for all gift cards. The difference between gift cards is typically the “scratch-off” number.
Accessing the store’s computer
Scammers are well aware that gift cards can only be activated in the systems of the store. This means they can manually get onto a register or even hack the store’s gift card database to scan the gift card themselves.
Gift cards inherently have no value since the data is stored on the computer system of the store.
Using an insider is considered the easier way someone can activate a gift card without scanning it. The scammer finds an inside guy in the store, since loss prevention may not really care about gift cards.
A fraudulent employee can store several gift cards since the business does not care about them, as long as the value is less than $100.
The loss prevention may not even get involved, so nothing goes in their record. In this case, the gift card is flying in small bits under the radar and sold cheaply online.
The same applies to promo codes for game stuff. If there are no more codes for customers, it could be because the employees have given them to friends or sold them out to interested persons.
The company needs to be more watchful to bust these activities.
Using scratch off stickers
Here, a scammer will collect a large stack of non-activated gift cards from a store. They scratch off the codes and write them down, then buy scratch-off stickers and put them on the scratch portions of the cards.
The compromised gift cards are snuck back to the shop. The scammer then checks the codes regularly until a genuine buyer purchases the compromised gift cards, which are then activated by the store. The scammer quickly uses them before the buyer does.
The gift card barcode can be printed easily and used at a different place with self-checkout as a payment method.
To get really sophisticated, a scammer may use a plastic card printer to forge the cards to look real. However, this is more effort than some would probably put into it.
Of course, the gift card has to be swiped. The scammer then tapes the printed barcode on top of an actual gift card with clear tape.
Moreover, many places allow customers to use a swipe machine without the teller looking at it. Therefore, self-checkout may not even be necessary. The scammer will just hope it does not give them any problems that make the teller ask to see the card.
Read also: how stolen gift cards are being activated
This does not seem like it would work since it is the magnetic strip that matters, not the barcode. However, a gift card app could be used to upload the numbers there.
A customer buying the compromised gift card will complain that their balance was depleted. Now, the loss is on the company who is left to cover the depleted value.
Pretend to buy a gift card
A scammer can buy one of the gift cards they picked the value of, say about $50. They complete the purchase, leave the store and quickly redeem the card.
The scammer rushes back in and claims they needed a $15 card and not a $50 one. Most stores would not refund gift cards but some cashiers will do it if they believe it is their fault.
Basically, the scammer gets away with an activated $65 worth of gift card for $15.
However, if the store updates the gift card balance immediately, the returned gift card balance will be empty when checked by the cashier.