Generally, a stolen gift card without activation is a useless plastic card. Nevertheless, this publication explains ways someone can activate stolen gift cards to make them useful. Otherwise, they’d have to dispose of them.
Usually, a stolen gift card can be activated by taking a picture of the barcode of another gift card and using that immediately after the original owner activates it. Alternatively, one can just visit a local retail store and attempt to trick the cashier to activate the gift card without paying.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data reveals how consumers lose $148 million in gift card scams in 2021, which means that there is a lot of money in stolen gift cards getting activated or preactivated by dishonest people.
If a gift card is preactivated, a cashier is no longer needed to activate it. For someone that possesses a stolen gift card that requires activation, this may not come easy since the card may not have been preactivated.
If a gift card needs activation, it’ll read “manual activation is required, will only be activated after purchase” or it could just read something similar. Thus, the gift card needs to be activated by a cashier using a unique serial number that verifies it after payment.
How to activate stolen gift cards
In this section, I’ll show you how to load gift cards without paying but if yours is stolen, I advise you to return it immediately.
Getting a stolen gift card may seem easy but activating the stolen gift card without paying does not come easy. But anyone who manages to activate the stolen gift card usually gets away with it if they buy or exchange it immediately.
Below are steps regarding how to activate stolen gift cards:
1. Activate through a careless store
There’s no doubt that a stolen gift card can be activated but it is not a walk in the park for any dishonest person.
First, they look for a store with a careless mode of operation and less security that they already know how to easily bypass.
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They then get a legit and very cheap gift card from the store, using the opportunity to monitor how the cashiers handle gift card transactions, as well as estimate their chance of getting away with the stolen card activation. While some stores just staple the receipt on the gift card, others do not.
A dishonest person will identify the surveillance cameras in the store and pays attention to the cashiers to gauge their chances.
2. Activating the stolen gift card
I figured this out after searching “how to activate gift cards without cashier Reddit” reading Redditors’ comments.
Well, it’s not a walk in the park for the person trying to activate stolen gift cards. However, they ensure not to get caught while attempting to trick the cashier to activate the card.
They typically visit a retail store where they can easily escape if they’re suspected. When the dishonest person meets the retail shop or cashier, they explain that they need to get their gift card activated. They can claim they obtained the cards for their birthday but they won’t work and that their friend did not issue the receipt for it.
They could even say that Granny gave the cards to them but that they have not been activated and that they can’t get in touch with her presently.
If the excuse above to activate stolen gift cards doesn’t work on the cashier, the dishonest person can contact the merchant or issuance company of the card and explain that they purchased a gift card that won’t work.
3. Use the barcode from a legitimate gift card
Someone can even activate stolen gift cards by taking a photo of the barcode on another legit gift card. Here, the person waits for the legit gift card owner to activate theirs and then uses it immediately, which is common with grocery gift cards.
4. They withdraw to avoid getting caught
If they contact a physical store, they do not hesitate to withdraw if things look to go south. They’d be friendly with the cashier like any other customer and may stop the cashier from calling the cops if they suspect they possess stolen gift cards.
Whether the attempt fails or is successful, dishonest people do not use the store for the next few weeks to avoid getting caught.
Can you activate a stolen gift card?
No, you can’t activate a stolen gift card, only the owner can. That is not to say that a stolen gift card can’t be activated in some other manipulative ways by dishonest people.
Usually, you activate a gift card from the register where it was purchased. Thus, someone with a stolen gift card that is not activated is possessing a ‘nearly’ useless plastic card. The only way the said gift card can be useful is if a cashier activates it.
So, how do I activate a gift card that wasn’t activated? Most gift cards are activated at the time of purchase, so a recipient does not even have to activate them again. However, for some gift cards, the recipient still needs activation before using them. To activate a gift card, you call the merchant or visit the provided URL and enter your correct activation numbers to activate it.
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If the gift card is stolen, note that honest and reputable retailers will not activate it for you. Theoretically, if you possess a stolen gift card that has numbers on it, the numbers could be in the inventory, making the stolen gift card traceable if stolen.
What can you do about a stolen gift card? Suppose you’re the owner of a stolen gift card or an honest person with a stolen gift card you just found. You can contact the gift card retailer immediately and report the stolen gift card for them to cancel the card. If you’re the owner, ask about the process to get a replacement gift card. However, if you do not have the original card receipt, you could still be reimbursed if you have the gift card number or had the gift card registered at the issuer’s site upon receiving it.
Can you activate a stolen gift card without the cashier or issuance company?
It’s not possible to activate a stolen gift card without the cashier or issuance company. When you buy a gift card, you need the cashier or issuance company’s system to activate it.
Otherwise, the only way is to break the cashier system or the gateway device to activate the stolen gift card. Unfortunately, you’re in reality and not one of those movies where stuff like this happens easily.
Someone could even obtain the login details by glancing at the papers on the counters of the cashier if the cashier is not careful. Some cashiers make the mistake of writing their logins on paper notes on the counter, which a scammer can easily figure out.
How does the cashier activate gift cards?
Normally, a cashier activates gift cards after getting paid. If you possess a stolen gift card, they will refuse to activate it and call the police on you. If someone asks a cashier to activate a stolen gift card, they may be able to tell if it is stolen if the original owner reported it stolen.
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A gift card that has not been paid for or scanned into the system by the cashier will show ‘Pending’ on the screen. ‘Pending’ on the gift card means that the POS terminal is awaiting payment, so how you have such a gift card missing from their inventory without a sales record or activation is questionable.
A third-party service installed on the activation terminal of the cashier processes the gift card transaction. When a gift card is activated, one will be given an activation slip, and sometimes the transaction receipt according to the store.
Most stores use third-party companies, including Blackmark, Blackberry, and Blackwater for gift card activation over the servers.
What happens if you use a stolen gift card?
If you use a stolen gift card, you can be arrested and prosecuted when you try to activate gift card without cashier. Note that this also depends on the type of gift card. If it is a prepaid reloadable Visa or MasterCard gift card with the features of a typical bank card that can be reported, you can be arrested when using it.
However, if the original owner of the stolen gift card did not report it stolen, nothing happens and the transaction will process successfully without suspicion.
But if the stolen gift card is a random store gift card, which works like cash, you can say it is a stolen $20 bill if it’s a $20 gift card. As such, nobody will zero out the gift card since there is no proof that it is stolen.
Can stolen gift cards be deactivated?
A stolen gift card can be deactivated. Retailers can deactivate any gift card number that is purchased fraudulently. That is to say, if you possess a stolen gift card, it could be deactivated when reported or discovered by the issuer.
Can a stolen gift card be traced?
Only a stolen gift card linked to credit card networks such as Visa prepaid cards can be traced. If someone has a single-store gift card, lots of them can’t be traced.
Can I use a gift card I found?
Yes, you can use a gift card you found. If it’s a random store gift card, that’ll seem almost like you just found money, just like finding an abandoned $20 bill. If it’s not activated and is the type of gift card linked to a network like Visa, you can’t use it.
What can you do about a stolen gift card?
When you find a stolen gift card, contact the retailer to cancel the card and find out the process for getting a new one. If you don’t have the original card receipt, you could be reimbursed if you still have the gift card number or if you registered the card at the site of the issuer when receiving it.