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Why a Utah woman has to pay the price of gift card fraud committed hundreds of miles away

Dec 20, 2022, 11:01 PM

CEDAR HILLS, Utah — Some people buy gift cards because they believe it is safer than giving cash, but a Cedar Hills woman says she will never buy a gift card again after a crook made off with hundreds of dollars she thought were secure.

Last Christmas, Jana Gunderson bought eight $100 Visa gift cards for her family. But right away, her kids noticed a problem.

“On Christmas Day, my son called me and he says, ‘Did you forget to put money on these gift cards?’”

No, she didn’t.

While the cards were physically wrapped under Gunderson’s Christmas tree and waiting to be opened, someone stole the money she loaded on those cards. And they did it at stores hundreds of miles away in California and Miami.

“This card was actually drained on the 24th of December,” she said about one of the eight compromised cards.

Now, if this had been credit card fraud, getting her money back would be as simple as disputing the charges as fraudulent. But despite being branded with the name of a credit card company that we all know, trying to get a refund has been an outright fight.

“It makes me angry that someone stole from me, but I don’t want him doing it to my neighbor,” said Gunderson, who is mad and whose mom suggested she call Get Gephardt.

“She said, ‘You need to call Gephardt because he’ll let people know.’”

We took Gunderson’s story to Ted Rossman of CreditCards.com, who says not only is drained gift cards a pretty common fraud, but the laws that protect you from credit card fraud do not apply to gift cards — even if they bear the logo of a major credit card company.

“Unfortunately, there’s not great buyer protections on gift cards,” Rossman said.

Sure enough, despite having the Visa logo right on the front, when we reached out to Visa to ask about Gunderson’s Visa-branded gift cards getting drained, they denied any responsibility.

“Visa is a payment network and does not issue or hold the funds deposited into prepaid payment cards,” it told us.

They went on to say Gunderson should call the store she bought the cards from, or the number of the financial institution that issued the card — information that’s found on the back.

Rossman’s advice: “Use them as soon as possible,” he said. “Because the more you wait, the more chance there is for something to go wrong.”

“I thought giving a gift card was safer than giving cash and it’s not,” Gunderson said of her experience.

After months of fighting, she said she got some of the money drained from her gift cards refunding. As for this year, the kids are getting cash. No plastic.

“It’s not fair. People don’t know not to buy gift cards,” she said about the lack of protection.

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Why a Utah woman has to pay the price of gift card fraud committed hundreds of miles away