Your gift cards are a top target for scammers this holiday season

You might want to check the balances on the gift cards your extended family gave you last Christmas.

That’s because gift card fraud is becoming more and more common among financial scammers, according to security experts. While consumers are now primed to routinely check their credit card reports and statements for mysterious transactions, it isn’t often the same for gift cards, making it harder to catch thieves in real time.

“Who checks their gift card balances on a daily basis?” Rick McElroy, principal security strategist at VMware Carbon Black, a cybersecurity firm, told CNBC Make It. “Thieves get a lot longer to hide.”

How scammers steal gift card information

There are multiple gift card scams that are becoming increasingly popular, according to security experts.

One involves scammers using a card reader to record — or simply writing down — a card’s serial number in store before it is sold. Then, they scratch off the decal protecting the cards’ PINs and record those, too, replacing the covering with tape that can be bought relatively cheaply online, according to Krebs on Security, a popular tech security blog.

“Once a card is activated, thieves can encode that card’s data onto any card with a magnetic stripe and use that counterfeit to purchase merchandise at the retailer,” writes Krebs. “Meanwhile, the person who bought the card (or the person who received it as a gift) finds the card is drained of funds when they eventually get around to using it at a retail store.”

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