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7 ways to make the most of gift cards

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Yes, Virginia, there are gift card thieves
Yes, Virginia, there are gift card thieves

It's a sad fact: If someone comes up with something cool, someone else figures out how to steal it.

One favorite trick: Scammers copy gift card numbers and check periodically to see if the cards have been activated, says Jay Foley, principal partner for ID Theft Info Source. When they are, the thieves then use the numbers to spend the money loaded on the card.

One way to fight back: Check the balance periodically before you use the card. Some gift card providers allow you to do that through their websites. While you're there, you can also find out what the policies are in cases of loss, theft or fraud.

If you see unexpected activity on your card, report it to the store or the gift card issuer.

In some cases, you may also need the receipt from the person who originally paid for the card.

Another strategy: Use the card as soon as you get it, says Foley.

Saving it for something special? Put the pertinent information, plus the receipt (if you have it), in a safe place. If anything happens to the card itself, you have the data you're likely to need if the issuer will replace it.

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