Retailers are no longer displaying gift cards on a shelf or racks in their stores due to the easy ability for criminals to steal the cards and track the bin or account numbers. It isn't difficult to look at an American Express account number on the front of a gift card and then go online and monitor whether the card has been activated or test the gift card online when buying movie tickets.
Another way thieves attack is by copying down the security code on the back of the card and calling the 800 number until the card is activated, then draining the value before the unsuspecting shopper is able to use it. If you're a victim, call the store immediately and be prepared with the receipt from the person who gave you the card.
Retailers have changed the way gift cards are secured and packaged to avoid that problem. Customers should be careful to check the back of gift cards for any scratched-off PIN numbers.
Many states are adding gift cards to their consumer protection laws. Rules having to do with expiration dates and maintenance fees are being amended. Several states recently passed laws that don't allow cards to expire.
For example, in California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and Nevada, cards cannot expire. In other states gift cards can't expire within the first two years of issuance. To find out how your state treats gift cards, check with your state's consumer protection department.
There is a groundswell of support to get rid of expiration dates. Merchants think it's better to get customers into the store, spend more than the value of the cards and become loyal customers, so they did away with their fees and expiration dates. Those benefits don't apply to the open-loop cards because their revenue streams have to come from somewhere else -- like the upfront fees.more on Gift Card Laws..
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