Unused Prepaid Gift Card Balances Are Suddenly Stolen

It’s easy gifting: These prepaid gift cards you can buy almost anywhere, and they often come with a trusted name like Visa or American Express. But several people said their money was stolen directly from the card before they even opened it. And they say it was impossible to get help until NewsCenter 5 started asking questions and found a troubling connection. Jason Meade is angry. He suddenly lost his 4-year-old son, Finn, last July. “He had undiagnosed heart disease and basically a heart attack,” Meade said. “He just died suddenly at his friend’s house in the middle of the day.” Meade’s colleagues banded together and raised nearly $1,000 for the family, the bulk of which — $800 — was split between two Vanilla-branded Visa gift cards. Meade put them aside to pay for his son’s headstone, but a few months later when he went to use the cards, the money was gone. “I don’t really know how they managed to steal the balance while it’s still in the original packaging,” Meade said. I was going to use to pay for my son’s headstone, I wasn’t too happy about that.” The same thing happened to Julie Mei, who runs a non-profit group in Winthrop and bought a gift card Vanilla Visa of $500 to help a family who became homeless, he said, “The full amount. The gift card was completely empty.” And then there’s Jean Manthorne’s story. She says $500 was stolen from her nephew’s wedding gift, a $600 American Express prepaid gift card. At a glance, this would seem to differentiate Manthorne’s gift card from Meade’s and Mei’s Visa Vanilla cards until you dig deeper.It turns out that all gift cards are distributed by the same company – InComm Financial Services – a little-known operation but a big gift card player.” My nephew still has the gift card in his hands. He did not lose the gift card gift. The gift card was not stolen,” Manthorne said. Still, she was told she was unlucky when she asked for the money back. They “said the gift card was the same as cash and there was nothing they could do.” InComm told Meade and Mei that a decision on their fraudulent charges would take months, but Meade was unwilling to let it go so he filed a formal dispute with the company. He said he waited the 90 days they told him it would take, but he heard nothing. “When I emailed them, it bounced back and said, ‘The email box is full,'” he said. “Well, I didn’t fill it in with just my email.” These stories raise many questions about the security of these prepaid gift cards, especially since when in the original packaging, the full numbers and security codes are obscured. Manthorne’s money was stolen in multiple transactions on Amazon. “I was wondering if they used the gift card to buy more gift cards.” InComm has hundreds of complaints to the Better Business Bureau, many of which are similar to these. After NewsCenter 5 contacted the company, they immediately sent the three new gift cards or a check to cover their losses. Yet they all say they’re done using prepaid gift cards. “I told everyone, everyone I know, never to buy a gift card,” Mei said. “If it was money, and I had it in an envelope at my house, nothing bad would happen to it,” Meade said. “To be honest with you, this makes me question the whole gift card industry.” A spokesperson for InComm would not answer questions about how this fraud occurs, but says the company takes it seriously and has carefully reviewed these cases to reduce the risk of future occurrences. She added that anyone who thinks this has happened to them should call the number on the back of their card, but based on these consumers’ experiences, it could take months. NewsCenter 5 also contacted American Express and Visa, but they did not. have something to add.

It’s easy gifting: These prepaid gift cards you can buy almost anywhere, and they often come with a trusted name like Visa or American Express.

But several people said their money was stolen directly from the card before they even opened it. And they say it was impossible to get help until NewsCenter 5 started asking questions and found a troubling connection.

Jason Meade is angry. He lost his 4-year-old son Finn last July.

“He had undiagnosed heart disease and basically a heart attack,” Meade said. “He just died suddenly at his friend’s house in the middle of the day.”

Meade’s colleagues banded together and raised nearly $1,000 for the family, most of which — $800 — was split between two Vanilla-branded Visa gift cards. Meade put them aside to pay for his son’s headstone, but a few months later when he went to use the cards the money was gone.

“I don’t really know how they managed to steal the balance while it’s still in its original packaging,” Meade said. For “someone to tell me that someone scammed me for $800 that I was going to use to pay for my son’s tombstone, I wasn’t too happy about that.”

The same thing happened to Julie Mei, who runs a non-profit group in Winthrop and bought a $500 Vanilla Visa gift card to help a family who found themselves homeless.

“One of our board members delivered [the gift card] Monday, June 20. The person went to use it on June 21, and it was completely drained,” she said. ” The total amount. The gift card was completely empty.”

And then there is the story of Jean Manthorne. She says $500 was stolen from her nephew’s wedding gift, a $600 American Express prepaid gift card.

At first glance, this would seem to differentiate Manthorne’s Gift Card from Meade’s and Mei’s Visa Vanilla Cards until you dig deeper. It turns out that all the gift cards are distributed by the same company – InComm Financial Services – a little-known operation but a big player in gift cards.

“My nephew still has the gift card in his hands. He didn’t lose the gift card. The gift card wasn’t stolen,” Manthorne said. Still, she was told she was unlucky when she asked for the money back. They “said the gift card was the same as cash and there was nothing they could do.”

Meade and Mei were both told by InComm that a decision on their fraudulent charges would take months, but Meade was unwilling to let it go, so he filed a formal dispute with the company. He said he waited the 90 days they told him it would take, but he heard nothing.

“When I emailed them, it bounced back and said, ‘The email box is full,'” he said. “Well, I didn’t fill it in with just my email.”

These stories raise many questions about the security of these prepaid gift cards, especially since when in the original packaging, the full numbers and security codes are hidden. Manthorne’s money was stolen in multiple transactions on Amazon.

“Even amounts – $100, $150, $250,” she said. “I was wondering if they used the gift card to buy more gift cards.”

InComm has hundreds of complaints to the Better Business Bureau, many of which are similar to these. After NewsCenter 5 contacted the company, they immediately sent the three new gift cards or a check to cover their losses. Yet they all say they’re done using prepaid gift cards.

“I told everyone, everyone I know, never to buy a gift card,” Mei said.

“If it was money, and I had it in an envelope at my house, nothing bad would happen to it,” Meade said. “It makes me question the whole gift card industry, to be honest with you.”

A spokesperson for InComm did not respond to questions about how this fraud occurs, but said the company takes it seriously and has carefully reviewed these cases to reduce the risk of future occurrences. She added that anyone who thinks this has happened to them should call the number on the back of their card, but based on these consumers’ experiences, it could take months.

NewsCenter 5 also contacted American Express and Visa, but they had nothing to add.

Michael N. Clark