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Area Man’s Gift Card May Have Been ‘Pre-Hacked’

Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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(CBS) – Chances are you received gift cards during the holiday season.

People love to get them. But as CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, you need to know that gift cards can get hacked, and some even lose value.

Gift cards are a $100-billion-a-year business, and many people never have a problem using them.

But that wasn’t the case for Michael Murphy. He had a big problem with a $75 dollar gift card he got from Jewel.

He thought he had $45 dollars left on it. When he went to use it, however:

“It had nothing,” Murphy says. “I wanted to immediately know what had happened. Where did transactions occur?”

In Arizona and California is what Jewel told Murphy.

“I think they were baffled,” Murphy says.

Dan Hoffman, a certified forensic investigator, has a theory.

“The card may have been ‘pre-hacked,’ so to speak,” he says.

That means thieves already have the numbers and can take the money as soon as the card is purchased.

Murphy kept his receipt and showed it to the grocery retailer.

“Jewel offered me a complete replacement for $75, and have been very helpful with the whole situation,” he says.

Jewel says that what happened to Michael Murphy is an isolated incident.

“At Jewel-Osco, whenever a customer has a gift card issue, we obtain the information from the card and track by store where the balance was spent. If, as in this case, the balance was spent in a location where the customer hasn’t been, we take care of the customer. It’s an isolated incident thus far; that said, we are taking the theft of gift card data seriously and are deploying additional tactics to make our gift cards more secure,” says Chris Wilcox, Jewel  vice president of communications and public affairs.

There are other issues to be aware of where gift cards are concerned.

Some stores are closing. Loehmann’s will only accept its gift cards until Feb. 7.

Also, cash cards like Visa or MasterCard expire over time and become worthless.

Unlike cash cards, retail store cards don’t expire.  And cards like Amazon or iTunes are good choices if you enter the claim code on the card into your account. When you do, the value of the card is transferred to your account; you can toss the plastic.

Experts tell us that with any gift card, it’s a good idea to monitor them.  Call the 800 number on the back or go to your account and check  the balance.