Police are warning Illinois shoppers of a new gift card scam called "card draining" as we head into the holiday season.

Scammers are experts in stealing money in every which way.  From blackmailing people, to posing as law enforcement over the phone, to counterfeit money scams, and now card draining with gift cards you're buying at stores.

Related: Beware of Fake Bill Scam: Counterfeit Money Increases in Illinois


In Pennsylvania, the balance on over 100 Visa and Apple gift cards were drained after scammers stole the gift card information before the cards were actually activated.  Now, this scam has been spreading across the country, like wildfire, as more shoppers are purchasing gift cards for Christmas and holiday parties.

How does "Card Draining" work if the cards aren't activated yet?

"This scam involves the culprits taking cards off displays and carefully getting the information from the back of the gift card before putting them back. From there, they wait. These scammers use a little patience and wait for these cards to be activated and money put on them — once they see it’s active, they’ll use and drain it." [fox59]

In simpler terms:

#1. Scammers get the card information off the gift card packages

#2. They wait until someone purchases the card and activates/loads it at the register

#3. Scammer spends the balance on the card before the original purchaser can use it

Related: Top 5 Craziest Scams You Need To Avoid In Illinois This Year


This is actually a crazy concept to think about.  I'm genuinely surprised this hasn't been an issue already at big box stores with the amount of people who love to commit fraud.

How can we prevent ourselves from being a victim of "Card Draining"?

Check the gift card packages before you purchase it.  Look to see if it has been opened already, seems tampered with, or if the info is already scratched off on the back of the card.  If it all checks out, you're good to go - fingers crossed!

Remember, as fast as technology is developing this day in age, scammers are upping their game faster than we know.  Try to be one step ahead of the game!

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