How scammers deplete Visa gift cards before you can use them

STALLINGS, N.C. — Visa gift cards can be a popular gift for special occasions such as birthdays, graduation, or holidays, but a man in Stallings says thieves used the cards he bought before his family could.

Tom Vinci says he bought six Visa gift cards worth $100 each and gave them to family members. When they tried to use the cards, three of them had been depleted and had a balance of zero.

“Tees you off,” he told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke. “Very frustrating.”

He was so frustrated that he posted about the scam on social media. “I’ve had over 50 people say, ‘Well, it happened to me,” Vinci said.

“(Scammers) will quietly take a bunch of cards off the rack, flip them over, expose the activation information and take pictures, and then put them back on the rack,” AARP fraud expert Kathy Stokes said.

She says that sometimes the scammers take off the gummy or silver security strips (and buy replacements strips online) or they hack into the card system remotely. Either way, the thieves wait for you to activate the card.

“As soon as that happens, they’re able to ping it and drain that card,” Stokes said.

Vinci says his family complained to Visa as well as the bank that issued the card, U.S. Bank National Association, but at last check the money had not been replaced.

Visa told Stoogenke it doesn’t “hold the funds” on the gift cards and that he should ask U.S. Bank National Association. Stoogenke spoke with them by phone and email and asked for an official response by Thursday, but he did not receive a reply in time for this report.

Advice from Action 9:

- Look at the card and make sure it doesn’t look like it’s been tampered with it.

- Don’t grab the first ones off the rack. Get one from the back if you can.

- Consider purchasing the gift cards online instead of off a rack in a store.

(WATCH BELOW: Multiple customers say thieves stole money out of their Chime account)