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New twist on prepaid gift card scam costs Alberta couple $200

New twist on prepaid gift card scam costs Alberta couple $200
WATCH: An Alberta couple is warning others about a new and sophisticated twist on the prepaid gift card scam. Global News' Tomasia DaSilva explains the twist and how you can spot it.

An Okotoks, Alta., family is cautioning others about using prepaid gift cards after being stuck with a fraudulent card.

Stephen and Tia Hagen bought a $200 “The Perfect Gift” card for their daughter who lives in B.C.

It scanned just fine at the till when they purchased it.

But before they sent it, Tia remembered Facebook posts warning that some of those cards were fake.

She opened the package, took the card out and called the number on the back but had no luck. Then, she independently found another number to call and discovered the unfortunate truth.

“I tried to find the balance of the card online,” she said. “Of course, it said it couldn’t find the number and this number isn’t valid.”

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An Alberta couple is warning others about a new and sophisticated twist on the prepaid gift card scam.
An Alberta couple is warning others about a new and sophisticated twist on the prepaid gift card scam. Tomasia DaSilva/Global News

That surprised Tia, considering the card was in encased in official packaging, which did not appear to have been tampered with.

“It looks very legitimate,” she said.

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Tia took the card to a local retailer to try and use it. Not only was the card unusable but it also started to peel apart.

“I think it’s just a piece of cardboard that maybe they laminated,” she said.

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The fraudulent gift card peeled apart once opened.
The fraudulent gift card peeled apart once opened. Global News

The Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay (BBB) told Global News this latest scam is a tricky one.

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“This one is a new one for us,” the BBB’s Shawna-Kay Thomas said. “We have not seen it. We have not heard of it as of yet.”

Thomas said there are red flags to watch out for when buying any gift or prepaid card.

“Normally with a card, you can see that it’s tampered with because on the back there may be an additional stamp that’s clear with a new number,” Thomas said.

“You may see that it’s out of the packaging, some sign that something is wrong with it. But [the Hagens’ card] appears to be a perfect card.”

Some Canadian retailers are being proactive when it comes to prepaid cards. Some have posted signs advising customers they can only purchase them from behind the counter. They also advise that refunds will not be made on prepaid gift cards.

Canadian retailers are taking steps to prevent fraudulent prepaid cards.
Canadian retailers are taking steps to prevent fraudulent prepaid cards. Tomasia DaSilva

Global News reached out to Visa Canada but didn’t get a response. However, Blackhawk Network Canada, which partners with companies like Visa on prepaid products, did respond.

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“Gift card fraud, including package tampering is not common, but does happen from time to time,” a statement read.

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“Although we are not able to provide specific details about our ongoing security and fraud prevention measures or this specific matter, we can share that we have placed great care into our fraud technology, and we partner with law enforcement and retail industry organizations to help promote a safe shopping environment for consumers.”

It also suggested consumers inspect the package to ensure it hasn’t been messed with, register the card and take a photo of the front and back of the card after purchase, so that you can get a replacement card in case of a problem.

Blackhawk added it would like to receive additional information about the consumer so it can investigate the situation further.

READ MORE: Buyer beware: Gift cards leaving customers short-changed

The Hagens have been trying to get a hold of anyone that can help resolve their problem.

“We’re just in a never-ending loop of phone calls,” Tia said. “Phone numbers that don’t work.”

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They’ve come forward with their story in the hopes it will help others. They also encourage any gift-getters to alert the sender if the card does not work.

They were quick to add it won’t ruin their Christmas but said it has been unfortunate.

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“We’re not a ‘Christmas is about the presents’ kind of family so our Christmas isn’t ruined,” Tia said. “But there’s still a daughter that is going to have to wait for a gift because we’re going to have to wait for a refund.”