Consumer tips: Gift cards, store apps & charitable giving

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - As the holiday season continues and the end of the year nears, the Better Business Bureau is offering consumers tips that could save many people time and money.

The head of the BBB for Mississippi says gift cards are popular, but if you're not careful, some cards can cause problems.

"Something that we're seeing an increase in over the last year is with people going into gift card racks, scratching off the number, taking a picture of that i-d with their phone and putting the card back on the rack," says John O'Hara. "Unfortunately, after this happens somebody buys the card in a couple of weeks, and the scam artists wait for that person to activate it. After they activate it, the bad guys spend the money."

That's why O'Hara says before purchasing a gift card, or initially trying to use it, always make sure that the hidden code has not previously been exposed.

O'Hara says another area that can cause concern is with store apps. Stressing that there are many good, legitimate store apps, O'Hara says there are also scam artists who are creating fake ones.

"What they're doing is asking for your name, your e-mail address and your credit card information," says O'Hara. As for credit card information, you should never have to put that in a store app to get savings. You would maybe put your name, e-mail address and maybe a phone number or not, but you wouldn't have to provide anything that would be so significant.'

Finally, he says during this season of giving it's important to check your charity of choice.

"There are really a lot of good charities in Mississippi and Alabama, and in this area," says O'Hara, "but you need to do your research on them because sometimes people take variations of those names; they set up on-line sites and they collect money."

Listed below are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau to help consumers avoid gift card scams:

1. Always carefully examine both the front and back of a gift card before you buy it.

2. Always ask the store cashier to scan the gift card in front of you to verify that it is valid and that it reflects the balance you charged.

3. Always keep you receipt as proof of the purchase.

4. If possible, register your gift card at the store's website.

5. Never give: your social security number, date of birth nor any other unnecessary personal information when you purchase a gift card.