Underwood Announces Policy to Combat Gift Card Scammers

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Attorney General.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Attorney General.

By Jonathan Sperling

With gift card scams increasing 270 percent in recent, years, New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood announced a new initiative designed to protect consumers from gift card fraud.

The attorney general’s office partnered with major retailers Best Buy, Walmart, and Target to design new strategies and reform current policies to better protect customers.

“With gift card scams on the rise, these changes will help provide critical new protections to New Yorkers and consumers across the country,” said Underwood in a statement. “By working collaboratively with these retailers, we’ve created a way for businesses to take proactive steps to prevent scams. I urge other retailers to follow their lead as we continue to tackle the ever-changing threats posed by scam artists.”

Thanks to the partnership, the three retailers have begun to implement the following policies ahead of the busy holiday shopping season:

Reducing the total amount that a consumer can purchase in one transaction in store-branded gift cards.

Reducing the dollar limit that can be loaded on a store-branded gift card.

Placing restrictions on the redemption of store-branded gift cards, including prohibiting the redemption of store-branded gift cards for other gift cards.

Enhancing employee training to help employees identify the warning signs of gift card scams and warn potential victims when appropriate.

The attorney general’s office has also identified several of the most common scams that schemers use to prey on shoppers, including the “Grandparent Scam,” where a scammer impersonates the victim’s grandchild and pretends to be in some sort of legal trouble. The scammer eventually asks the victim for money to pay for bail or a lawyer. Many of the scam’s victims are seniors.

“Stealing from seniors by exploiting their love for their grandchildren is despicable,” Underwood said in a statement in September. “I urge New Yorkers to be on the alert for this scam, and protect yourself and your family by following our tips."

Shoppers can read tips on avoiding the Grandparent scam, as well as other common scams, by visiting ag.ny.gov.