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Good morning everyone, a few days ago, I was at a local Ralphs (Kroger) grocery store in Huntington Beach, CA and bought a $500 Visa Gift Card (issued by US Bank). I have bought many Visa gift cards before (including the specific gift card design below) and have not had any problems. Well, my streak has finally come to an end and it was a big pain in the butt to fix.
Shortly after purchasing the gift card (like 5 minutes later), I took the gift card out of the packaging and called the number on the back of the gift card to set the PIN. After entering the 16 digit gift card number and the 3 digit security code, the voice on the phone said I was being transferred to a customer service rep. I hung up and entered the numbers again, thinking that I had miss-typed the numbers. Again, I was transferred to a customer service rep.
The rep was very friendly and he informed me that my gift card number had been compromised. He stated that there were attempts to use the gift card (online I presume) before the gift card was activated. Uh oh, that does not sound good. He gave me a series of steps to follow to send in the appropriate documentation to US Bank:
US Bank Fax Number: 414-341-7600
Send fax to “Attn: Stolen Replacement Card Request”
Send the following items to the above fax number:
Store gift card receipt along with the front and back of the gift card
Cardholder’s name, mailing address, cell phone number, and email address
16 digit gift card number
Optional items to fax: a different gift card mailing address and the front and back of the gift card packaging
To receive a status update, call the number on the back of the gift card (866-952-5653)
After US Bank receives the documentation, they will investigate the issue and send you a new Visa Gift Card to your mailing address. That sounds like such a headache but that was the only way to resolve the issue… or so I thought.
Since I was having breakfast close to Ralphs, I went back in the store and spoke with the store manager. After a few minutes of speaking with the store manager, he immediately knew what to do. He made a call to Kroger Corporate and sent a fax of my gift card, packaging, and store receipt to the rep on the phone. At this point, I have been waiting about 20 minutes and my mom is waiting in the car, texting me. It is Mother’s Day and she would rather be home than waiting in a Ralphs parking lot.
After speaking to the Kroger agent, the store manager called Visa Corporate to file a claim. He shared with me a similar story where someone bought 3 $500 Visa Gift Cards on Christmas Eve and he was on the phone for an hour and a half to fix the issue.
At this point, the store manager went to grab a few new Visa Gift Cards and see if he could transfer the balance of the compromised gift card to a new Visa Gift Card. The first Visa Gift Card was compromised as well. And so were the next 3 Visa Gift Cards. At this point, the assistant store manager grabbed all the variable load Visa Gift Cards off the gift card rack and put them in a drawer behind the counter. I could tell the store manager was getting frustrated and I offered up another suggestion.
Could we try transferring the balance from a US Bank Visa Gift Card to a US Bank MasterCard Gift Card? It sounded plausible (thanks MythBusters) so we gave it a try. I’m not sure who was on the phone at this point, but after a few minutes, the store manager said that the gift card balance was transferred over to the MasterCard Gift Card. Before leaving the customer service counter, I checked online and the $500 transfer posted properly. Success! Finally!
While I was standing at the customer service desk, the store manager and I chatted about gift card fraud. He said that the criminals were running random number generators to discover working combinations of gift card numbers. If that were the case, then the criminals could theoretically hack any US Bank Visa Gift Card from any store anywhere in the country. With that said, I will personally never buy another US Bank Visa Gift Card. The amount of hassle that is required to fix compromised gift cards is just too much. I will stick with Vanilla Visa Gift Cards and Bancorp Gift Cards from office supply stores and pharmacies for now. I thanked the store manager and wished him a pleasant Mother’s Day.
I highly recommend reading this post about gift card packaging: Gift Card Warning: Check Packaging for Signs of Tampering. Always double and triple check every gift card you purchase for signs of tampering. It takes maybe 5-10 seconds and if anything looks out of place, it is better to be safe and find a gift card that looks un-tampered. I also shared my thoughts on why I do not like to MS when I travel: Poll: Do you Manufacture Spend when you Travel? To summarize, here are my gift card buying recommendations:
- Always check the gift card packaging before purchasing any gift card.
- Always check the balance on your gift card as soon as you purchase any gift card.
- Always try to liquidate your gift cards as soon as possible.
- Always save your receipt and gift card packaging until the gift card is liquidated.
- If problems arise, immediately go back to the store where you purchased the gift card.
- Follow up with all gift card issues. You might be out $500-$5,000 for 1-3 months if you do not follow up with the merchant often.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Have a great day everyone!