This Season's Biggest Gift Card Scam

This holiday season, Americans are expected to buy $25 billion of gift cards, according to the National Retail Federation - $6 billion more than last year. Of course, the bigger the business, the higher the number of crooks looking for a cut.

One big gift-card scam comes when swindlers make note of the unique number on the back of a gift card in the store, then check online to see if the card has been activated. If it has, they can spend the money before you have the chance.

You can avoid this con by doing the following:

1. Resist the temptation to buy gift cards off the store rack. These cards are the easiest targets of thieves. While it may be convenient to pick one up in the checkout lane, take the extra minute to ask the clerk for a card from behind the counter or just buy it online and have it shipped to you or the recipient.

3. Wait before you activate. Don’t activate your card until you are about to use its funds. This makes it more difficult for scammers to have the time needed to steal the money once it has been activated.

One more thing: never give out personal information like your social security number to buy a gift card. If you’re asked for this in the process, you might be in the midst of an even bigger scam!