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Warnings have been issued across the country as gift card scams continue to mount.

While gift cards offer a flexible way to show someone you care this holiday season, the authorities have warned that their balances are being increasingly targeted by scammers. In November, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) announced a 50% increase year over year in the number of gift card fraud reports it had received from consumers.

Although fraudsters texting or calling victims and requesting gift card payments while pretending to be someone else — such as a loved one, a representative of Amazon, or a police officer — is nothing new, this novel scheme drains gift card balances purchased by unsuspecting shoppers.

“Scammers are already getting to the gift cards before you even purchase it and leave the store,” explained Bao Vang, vice president of communications for BBB in Minnesota and North Dakota, according to CBS News.

The thieves are either placing their own barcodes on top of the barcodes of a given gift card or tampering with packaging or security stripe used to take note of the card’s information.

“They’re just waiting for someone to load money onto it and activate the card and the moment it does, then the scammer is alerted and then they’re going to drain that account of the $5, $500, $1,000. And then the recipient of the card will no longer have anything,” Vang continued.

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