Some new gift cards are cleared of money before they are even used

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – Imagine if you went to use your brand new gift card and found that all the money was gone before you even opened the package.

It happened to a local man and it might happen more than you think.

George Kaiser didn’t have time to use his holiday gift cards right away.

“I didn’t do anything with it for a few months, it just stayed sealed,” Kaiser said.

Recently, he went to use his Vanilla Visa gift card for the first time.

He activated it online and got a surprise.

“Once I authorized the card, it immediately went from a $50 balance to $0 and the money was gone,” Kaiser said.

He showed us the online transaction receipt.

Kaiser called the company and he said they told him he had to wait 90 days before they could help him.

“It’s the worst thing, you just want an answer and you can’t get it.” And you’re kind of hopeless,” he said.

Vanilla Visa is owned by Atlanta-based InComm Payments.(WIO)

19 investigation revealed that Vanilla Visa is owned by InComm Paymentsbased in Atlanta.

You can find their gift cards at major retail stores.

We discovered more than 600 consumers filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau about Vanilla Visa gift cards.

Many people have similar stories.

We checked with the Cleveland BBB and found that they had only received three complaints about the company since 2021.

We also learned that hackers might be to blame.

The BBB said it accesses the cards and when consumers go to use them, the money is gone.

We called InComm Payments and heard from someone representing the company.

He told us they would investigate Kaiser’s complaint.

And they did. Kaiser said he was told it could still take up to 90 days to resolve his claim.

He is happy to have finally been called back, but disappointed that it took a call from 19 Investigates for this to happen.

For Kaiser, the money was worth fighting for.

“It’s not a lot of money, but $50 might get you half a tank of gas today,” he said with a laugh.

He told us he was speaking out because he wanted to warn others about what happened.

“There are so many people trying to take advantage of people, you just have to be very careful in what you’re doing,” Kaiser said.

In an AARP survey, more than one in five people said they had given or received a gift card that ultimately had no money on it.

You can buy a digital gift card online instead of a physical gift card if you are worried about this happening to you.

You can report possible gift card scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office here.

Statement from an InComm Payments spokesperson:

“InComm Payments takes the concerns of our cardholders seriously and we have protocols in place to work with consumers and merchants to investigate issues. Although we cannot comment on this particular case as it is under review, we are in contact with the cardholder to resolve the issue.

Consumers with concerns about their card should call the phone number listed on the back of their card. InComm Payments has dedicated customer service lines available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide assistance.

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Michael N. Clark