Gift Card Fraud & Scams Series – Part II


Gift Cards Stolen from the Mail at the Post Office

In case you have not been following this series on Gift Card Fraud and Scams, Part I of the series, which was posted last week, talks about secret credit card recording and how that is used to perpetuate gift card fraud. Today’s post will focus on gift card fraud at the post office.

I posted this article back in march 2008 – Gift Card Alert: USPS may have lost the gift card you mailed alerting readers about the need to properly package gift cards before they mail them since it appears gift cards are being lost at the post office due to improper packaging.

While the post office places the blame for missing gift cards on customers, it appears a few bad apples among the post office employees are taking advantage of the situation and may be going as far as stealing gift cards from mail that may have been properly packaged.

A recent arrest of a McAllen, TX postal worker for stealing gift cards from the mail got me curious. I did a quick search on Google news and came up with similar post office arrests over the last year or so, including the following:

April 24, 2008 – Charlottesville, VA (A Postal worker pleads guilty to stealing mail that contained money and gift cards)

April 22, 2008 – Smithtown, NY (Postal worker arrested for stealing credit and gift cards from mail)

March 12, 2008 – Madison, WI (Federal prosecutors charge a former postal worker with stealing gift cards from the mail)

May 24, 2007 – Sudan, TX (Postal worker arrested for stealing gift cards and credit cards from mail)

June 30, 2007 – Glenville, NY (Postal worker arrested for stealing gift cards from mail)

October 4, 2006 – Bloomington, IN (A U.S. Postal Service employee confesses to stealing gift cards while on her mail route)

June 13, 2006 – Orlando, FL (Eight postal workers face criminal charges for allegedly stealing items from the mail including cash and gift cards)

How You Can Be Affected
There are two ways gift card fraud can happen at the post office. The first method, which the post office has explained, is when poorly packages mail become undone by the sorting conveyer belt and spew gift cards all over the floor. The post office’s policy on gift cards that fallout during the sorting process is that if those cards are not claimed within 30 days, they are sent to a postal processing center in Minnesota and destroyed. The question is whether all the unclaimed gift cards make it to Minnesota? Based on the arrests listed above, it is fair to assume that some of the gift cards are stolen by some bad employees at the post office.

The second method, which has led to recent arrests of some post office employees, is when employees delivering mail steal packages that feel like they contain valuables, including gift cards, credit cards, or cash.

How to Protect Yourself
1. Secure packaging: As you can probably tell, people can feel a package and determine its contents, especially with gift cards. If you are going to mail a gift card, be sure to package it properly so that it is not easily discernable. You can use bubble wrap, padded envelopes etc. to help disguise the contents of your package.

2. Buy Insurance: If you are mailing a gift card of significant value, consider buying insurance from the post office as extra protection. The $1.50 you spend on insuring your package may help save your $50 gift card should it go missing. Yes, you can probably get the gift card issuer to issue a replacement card should your gift card go missing.

However, not all retailers are willing to re-issue gift cards and even if they do, they will only re-issue the card for the current value on the card. So, if your card is stolen in the mail and the person uses all the value on the card, then there will be nothing to replace.

3. Notify Recipient: Another way of protect yourself from gift card mail fraud is to call the recipient and alert them when you mail the package, so that they can be on the look out for it. It will also help them react more quickly if the package does not arrive. You don’t want to wait until weeks or months later before you find out that the gift card never arrived. By that time, it may be too late.

Readers, have you been a victim of mail fraud? Share your experience or any tips you may have through the comments section below.

CATEGORIES: Gift Card Fraud

15 Comments

  • Thank you for an interesting post. I’d also add to the protection suggestions to use a shipper and class of shipping that require a signature from the recipient. Rick

  • GiftCardBlogger™ says:

    Rick, great point. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Austin Chu says:

    It’s been a few months, but new just broke out about a $300,000 Kroger gift card scam. You can get the details on my blog.

  • Jeff says:

    I work at a local department store and someone came in today and wanted to get two 200 dollar gift cards. The id and card matched up but the thing was the card kept saying magnetic error. I sold him the card and an hour later loss prevention came and said they wre fraud charges.

  • Jon says:

    Just found your article after getting 150 dollars in gift cards stolen through the mail. Envelope was cut open with box knife and resealed with packing tape. 100 dollar check was not taken. A person stealing from the mailbox would not take the time to re seal and place back in mail box. Plus the sender handed it to mail lady and I picked it up as it was dropped off. That is money my struggling family needed for the holidays and it is so wrong of someone at the postal service to do that and break our trust in them.

  • thief says:

    Well check this out, I have been stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars within the past year or so.
    I have never exposed my secret to anyone before
    But because its Christmas and im feeling extra generious
    i have decided to let everyone in on my Scam…

    Ok its like this…
    Step 1 go to a department store that sells these
    Visa gift cards/American express gift cards
    Now your going to want to pick a place where
    they would most likely sell them in higher
    denominations (money wise)
    ok grab a stack of $500
    and some 100′s and what
    not, and head on into the shitter.
    Thats right take those puppy’s into the
    bathroom with you, grab a stall and
    relax. while your taking care of business
    go ahead and copy each one of those $500
    dollar card numbers down on a piece of
    paper don’t forget the expiration date and
    3 number code from back.

    After you got your numbers copied down
    go ahead and put those baby’s right back where
    you got them, Make sure there right on top
    screaming Take Me, Take Me…

    Step 2 We wait, Try within a day or 2 buy
    calling the 800 number and check to see if
    its been activated, Because of the holidays
    i haven’t had to wait more than 2-3 days
    for a $500 dollar one to become active,
    once activated, Buy whatever your little heart
    desires, and the other person is clueless because
    they have the card..
    OWNED…..

    ENJOY..

  • Eric says:

    Just had $150.00 in 4 gift cards stolen via the U.S. Postal Service. Appears the local Boise, ID branch has a thief on their hands. It’s sad. Unfortunately we didn’t take necessary precautions.. just chalking it up to “people will be people”.

  • Michael says:

    Mockingbird Post office in South Austin: ripped off all but a few of our Christmas cards. Nobody in my family, from Kansas, Texas, Hawaii & Japan recievedd thier packages which were portraits of our children. I am certain that there was someone there looking for goodies for themselves. How elese could mail being directed to multi-state & international all be lost???? something stinks and it aint the fish

  • DeDe says:

    My daughter opened a card from her Godfather and all that was there was the card and the envelope had been taped back up. There were 2 missing gift cards. One from the Gap the other Barnes and Noble. It had to be someone at the post office…the envelope was taped back up. We are in the process of having the cards re-issued, but they are probably used up. With the state of the economy I think this kind of behavior will only increase.

  • Dave says:

    Not all envelopes with missing cards are stolen. I’d imagine it is a miniscule amount in comparison to:
    1. The amount of cards sent every year.
    2. The number lost due to packaging.

    Unsecured cards bouncing around in a envelope running through high speed sorters will eventually tear through the envelope on the edges. Later the local mail carrier tapes up ripped or partially closed envelopes.

    I’m not saying that the cards MAY have been stolen, it’s just the vast majority probably ended up on the floor of the sorting facility with no way to match them back up with one of the thousands of letters sorting at the same moment.

    The thing that most people should do is properly secure the gift card inside the envelope so it doesn’t move. Tape it down to the letter or greeting card or use a card carrier designed to mail ridged plastic cards.

  • Moira G says:

    My mom just had the experience this year of having mailed 60 christmas cards at our local Salem, OR post office and having already 4 of 6 of the people she mailed them to complain that the post office delivered the empty envelope but with the card that was in it missing – the envelopes had been neatly sliced all around the diameter of the envelope with what seems like a nice, sharp knife or letter opener – there is no way this neat cut was made by a tear or something with their machinery – obviously since my mom mailed it the day before the thanksgiving holiday this year some opportunist postal worker thief decided to try and slit open the cards and see if there was gift cards or checks/money inside. So far out of the 6 people of the 60 that were sent that have reported back, four of them received empty envelopes, one had the envelope slit all the way around but the postal worker theif decided to be nice on that one and put the card back in and taped the two sides – weren’t they nice after cutting it open? – and one person got the card.
    My mom is a senior whose income is limited and the stamps alone were not cheap for her to buy. I am livid at the USPS right now. The local station was blaming her for using ‘cheap’ Christmas cards that got ‘torn’ in the mail. The national USPS assigned her a case # and are due to report back to us. I am waiting to see what the heck they will say about it.
    The other issue that happened – also, my mom has a ‘secure’ mailbox and Saturday the mail guy put a package key in her box and when she went to open the package box there was nothing inside, so now we are worried that he didn’t put the package in and it might have been something which a relative sent and that some other opportunist at USPS made off with as well. They also gave her the lame excuse on that one that the guy just mistook her box for the mail slot – well, her box is one row down from that so I fail to see how the guy could be so stupid as to mistake her box for that.

  • Wendy says:

    I sent a $50 visa gift card in one of those music playing cards, so it was extra thick. I put 3 stamps on it just in case and the PO put a note on it that when it was recieved at the Tacoma PO it was open. So from my mail box to where they sort it, the robber opened the side of the card up and took the gift card. In the process of looking for my receipt. I thought gift cards were more secure than cash. I should have insured it. Next time I will send cash it’s less obvious!!

  • A word of caution to those, who purchase postal insurance for their mailings containing gift cards: unless you also sent the letter or package Registered Mail,the Postal Service will only reimburse $15.00 for all gift cards.
    It happened to me. A Priority Mail package sent to a friend in San Diego, Ca., containing Xmas presents and $100.00 worth of gift cards was “lost” or “misdelivered” by the mail carrier. The package was insured for $160.00 I was the mailer. My first insurance claim was denied. After an appeal, the claim was approved but for only $15.00 and the original cost of mailing the package. I submitted all original receipts for the items lost, including receipts for the purchase of the gift cards.
    $15.00 is the full indemnity amount the Postal Service will pay for money, gift card and gift certificates, regardless of the amount you’ve insured the “lost” mail. If you hope to recoup the actual cost of such items, you must also send them by Registered Mail.

  • Murlin says:

    My post office told me that you can’t really insure gift cards as well. They will not reimburse you for lost gift cards. The above poster’s $15.00 indemnity sounds correct.

  • Lauren S says:

    I can confirm what Kathy M & Murlin reported about not being able to insure gift cards. I just returned from the post office where I tried to insure a package that contained $500 worth of gift cards (there was nothing else in the package). I was told that I would have to send it registered mail and the cost was $16.95 ~ ouch! That seems like quite a hefty price to pay just to insure that the post office does it’s job of delivering my package to it’s proper destination without losing the contents along the way!

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