A Texas woman goes to a Houston Walmart and buys multiple gift cards to donate to needy families through her church group. When she examines the card activation codes, she discovers that several of the gift cards she bought have been tampered with, and the money has been “drained” from the cards in a fraud.
Church ladies in Houston want to do a good deed but are duped in a growing gift card theft known as the “blank gift card scam.”A Texas woman told KPRC 2 News her experience so that others would be cautious while placing money onto holiday gift cards.
The following incident occurred when a woman purchased gift cards at the Walmart at 2700 S Kirkwood Road in Houston, TX.
A Houston woman is duped into purchasing gift cards for needy families
Susan Kunz, according to KPRC 2 News, spent $1,000 on four Walmart gift cards so that her church Sunday School group could present the gift cards to needy families at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church. Three of the four gift cards she purchased were taken, totaling $800.
Talking with KPRC 2 News Susan stated:
“…Each year, we go out and buy Walmart gift cards to cover incidentals for our [needy] families to go along with the gifts we give them.” So, on Monday, I went to the Walmart at Westheimer and Kirkwood and bought $1,000 in Walmart gift cards. The next day, I always take the activation code and glue it to the back of the card so that the individual receiving it understands how much money they have and that it has been activated.
When I attempted to do so, I discovered that only one card…the activation code matched the number on the back of the card.”
Further, she stated:
“…so I have three $800 cards with activation codes that do not match the numbers on the back of the cards.” So I walked over to Walmart and spoke with the ‘floor manager’ over there, and they needed to see the receipt…they needed to check the camera footage that indicated I actually purchased the cards. We played the cards, and one of them has already been (I’m not sure what you call it) ‘drained.'” –
She claims the cards have just been in her possession for a short time, implying that it had to be done before she purchased them.
“How does this happen?” Susan wonders.
Brief Description of the Blank Gift Card Scam
In the expanding “blank gift card scam,” a thief visits a retail outlet that sells gift cards and tampers with the activation code and or PIN to gain remote access to the funds.
The scammer then adds a sticker that appears to be on the card over the barcode or scratch-off area to conceal the fact that the card has been tampered with by the victim.
When a tampered gift card is returned to a retail business, a customer unwittingly loads money onto the card at the register.
The fraudster examines the card’s balance, and if they discover that a client has loaded it with money, the money is “drained” before the actual consumer uses it or gives it to someone else.
Susan is asked by KPRC 2 News, “How did this happen to you?”
She claims that the gift cards were not obviously tampered with. She observed that “three out of the four gift cards” with different activation numbers from what she had on the ticket were the three “drained.”
Susan Kunz claimed that she got the gift cards “basically around the register areas” and then went to the Money Center to activate them.
She stated: “They’ve got you on camera.” They can return their gaze to the camera. ‘Yes, this is you,’ they can say. ‘You were buying these cards.’ They wanted to see my receipt, so, and then it was like, ‘Well, we’ll have to look into that.’ When I returned, they replied, ‘Yes, they had observed [on] camera someone using the card(s) at the Wayside Walmart.”
Susan then requested to speak with the general manager of the Walmart where she was, and she was informed, “He can’t speak to you.” This is not an issue in our store. If you wish to receive the money returned on this card, you must go to Wayside and get it refunded.”
Susan said, “I don’t want the money put back on the card because if it got drained once, why would it not get drained again?”
“There’s an issue here. We’d like our money returned.” -Walmart customer Susan Kunz
She claimed they informed her, “We’re sorry, but we can’t refund your money.” Your only chance of getting any money back is to take this one card to the other Walmart and speak with them.”
She claimed to KPRC 2 News that after suggesting she go to the Wayside Walmart, the Walmart personnel became “unfriendly” to her.
Susan notified the Houston Police Department of the incident.
Susan and another churchgoer, Brenda, discussed the issue with the police on Thursday, December 7th. The cops “will be looking into it” and said they don’t know whether this is an inside job or a gift card tampering fraud.
According to the US Sun, Walmart did not repay Susan for the money she lost, but she did contact Capital One and put a stop to the payment on her credit card.
She told KPRC 2 News that they devised an alternate way to give the money to their family at church on Sunday, but “Obviously, we will not be giving them Walmart cards.”
Susan claims she got “no response from the general manager or anyone else” at the Walmart she visited. She is also confident that this scam has victimized others, stating, “We are not the only people.”