Scammers use technology to cash in on your gift cards

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Black Friday is a week away and there's something you need to know before you do any holiday shopping. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued a warning about buying gift cards as gifts.

When you head out to shop, you can bet scammers will also be hard at work trying to get their hands on the estimated $274 billion worth of gift cards expected to be sold this year.

Scammers are using what some refer to as 'old-fashioned trickery combined with new technology.' According to the BBB, one thing fraudsters are doing is going into stores to steal just the gift card number. They never take the actual card; later you buy the gift card never knowing someone has the information; the crook checks online to see when the card has been activated--allowing the thief to spend the card balance online.

Tom Gallagher with the BBB of Central Virginia said there are several things you can do to protect yourself. He recommends you look for tampering, opting to buy buying those cards you find in a thick plastic casing. It's also important to use trusted sources. Finally Gallagher said the importance of registering your card online can save you money and frustration, if the card were ever lost or stolen.

"You go online and you register and you get your pin number that's kept only to you; you have some protection," Gallagher said. "It's almost just like currency; it's almost just like green money; make sure you treat it like that."

The BBB also recommends consumers be cautious; If you get a gift card, try to spend it as soon as possible. While gift cards rarely have expiration dates, the longer you hold onto your gift card, the better chance that you will forget about it, lose it, or the company may go out of business.

For more information on how to avoid becoming a target to thieves, click here.