Scammers target gift card buyers at Fred Meyer

HILLSBORO, Ore. -- Many grandmothers love to spoil their grandchildren.

That was the case for Jan Swanson of Hillsboro, who got some pricey Visa gift cards for her four grandkids. She bought them at a local Fred Meyer and loaded them up with hundreds of dollars each. Unbeknownst to her, scammers had gotten to those cards first.

"You would think that would be a safe purchase," said Swanson. "But I guess it's not."

Swanson fell victim to a scam the gift card industry has seen before. Prepaid cards from all kinds of businesses and corporations are on sale at Fred Meyer and other stores. A customer typically picks up a packaged card, takes it to the checkout stand where it gets activated when purchased. But you may not realize what scammers have done with that card before you bought it.

"What these scammers do is they'll go to the rack of gift cards and then take a stack of gift cards off the rack and then go photocopy the backs of them," said Judy Swift, a spokeswoman for Fred Meyer. "Then they just wait for them to be purchased and then use them."

Many cards are packaged in a way to prevent thieves from obtaining activation codes. But scammers have different methods. Customers and store employees also aren't always aware that a card package has been tampered with.

But Swanson sees a simple solution.

"If these cards are on a kiosk out there for anybody to get a hold of, and they're being manipulated somehow, why don't you move all of your Visa cards into customer service, behind the desk, where it's safe," she said.

Swift says card placement is something that may have to be looked at. She has made a promise to Swanson that her situation will be worked out.

We learned about this gift card caper when members of the family sent us a news tip. If you have a story like this or anything you want the On Your Side reporters to look into, send us an email at