TIPS: Arizona Attorney General warning holiday shoppers about gift card fraud

PHOENIX - A Laveen woman is warning other Christmas shoppers after enduring an unsettling experience at a popular clothing retailer.

On Wednesday, Ana Pina says she went to Forever 21 to purchase a gift card. She paid for the gift card with her debit card and was asked to show her driver’s license.

"She just said, 'Hang on, I need to make a copy,'" Pina explained.

According to Pina, the employee explained that store policy requires her to make a copy of her driver’s license. However, Pina says she felt uneasy and asked to speak to a manager, who explained the copy of the license was a precaution to protect against identity theft.

"Why would they need a copy of my driver's license?" Pina wondered. "That's my personal information, it doesn't seem right for some 19-year-old kid to have access to that."

Pina says she asked the manager to return the physical copy of her driver's license. 

"He returned a few minutes later with a printed copy of a driver's license, only it wasn't mine," Pina said. "It was another lady's printed copy of her driver's license and I said that's not my information you're giving me, which just kind of validated my concern."

Pina told ABC15 her biggest concern was her information could fall into the wrong hands. 

“Had I been an ill-intentioned person, I could have walked away with somebody else’s personal information,” Pina said. “This just proved my point.”

On Thursday, ABC15 reached out to Forever 21's corporate office, which has yet to return an email. An employee at the Arizona Mills location referred any inquiries to a district manager, who has yet to return calls seeking comment or clarification. 

The Arizona County Attorney General’s Office says gift card fraud is a rising issue, especially around the holidays.

“Gift cards are one of the most requested items on holiday wish lists. Unfortunately, thieves like gift cards too,” AG Mark Brnovich said. “Con-artists are now able to scan gift card numbers inside the store and drain away balances before you can even use the card.”

The thieve use handheld scanners to read the card’s magnetic information and any number on the front. They then return the gift card back to the rack and wait for it to be activated.

The AG’s Office is offering the following tips for those last-minute Christmas shoppers:

  • Purchase gift cards from behind the customer service counter 
  • Choose cards with packaging that covers the card number and security code 
  • Choose a card with loss/theft protection
  • Watch for any signs of tampering (for example, avoid cards that have the PIN number scratched off)
  • Avoid purchasing cards from online auctions
  • If the card is preloaded, ask for the card to be scanned to verify its full value
  • Keep the receipt if a gift card is purchased
  • Change the security code if possible

Anyone who believes they've been a victim of this scam, or any consumer fraud, is urged to call the Attorney General's Office at 602-542-5763. People can also file a complaint online on the Attorney General's website.

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