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‘Cloned’ Gift Cards are a Problem in Arizona. Here’s How to Avoid Buying One

PHOENIX — Thousands of “cloned” gift cards have been seized in an ongoing investigation into retail fraud across Arizona, the state attorney general’s office announced.

Up to eight individuals have been arrested in connection to a scheme that drains the funds from gift cards purchased by Arizona consumers. The names of the suspects have not been disclosed because the investigation is ongoing.

The AG’s office said the scheme involved scammers taking gift cards from retail stores, copying the card’s magnetic strips, and returning the copied card back to the store where it can be bought by a customer. When the card is purchased, the scammer can use the copied magnetic strip to steal money off of the gift card.

“The minute it is purchased, it is drained of the money because it’s been cloned,” Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said.

The AG’s office recommends consumers should try to buy gift cards stored behind a counter or cash register. A customer can also detect signs of card tampering by checking that the card’s number matches the number on the receipt.

“If you’re at the checkout counter, and you have a number that doesn’t match the receipt, you can give that card to the retailer,” Mayes said. “Give it back, don’t buy it or get your money back and get a card that does match.”

If a card has faint scratches or stickers placed over activation codes, then those may also be signs that they’ve been cloned. Mayes said it’s believed this scam has been going around for a couple of years now and that other states are seeing the same issue.

“We also worked with the Arizona Retailers Association and they estimate that right now and during this holiday season 500 of these cards are being cloned and stolen a day to the tune of $20,000 to $50,000 a day being lost,” Mayes said.

Arizonans who believe they’ve been the victim of fraud can file a complaint with the AG’s office here.

Source: 12News