Help! My Target gift card is zeroed out

When Joanna Lee’s Target gift card is suddenly worthless, is there any way to recover the missing money? Perhaps.

Question: I registered a physical Target store gift card in April on Target’s website. I depleted the balance a few days later but I kept the physical gift card.

In October, I decided to combine 13 gift cards totaling $99 onto this physical gift card. I have the original receipt. That same day I made one transaction of $6 at that same store, which brought the balance of the gift card down to $93.

Later that month, when I went to my local Target store, a cashier told me my balance was zero. That is impossible because I am the only one who has had possession of that card. No one else even knows about it. I contacted the gift card department which transferred me to the online department. A representative told me that someone by the name of John used my gift card online to purchase eBay gift cards. These gift cards were delivered by mail.

I asked for the email address that this individual used and the representative hung up on me. I called back and spoke with a supervisor, who told me the information was confidential, and I should contact my local police department.

I have called Target several times, emailed them, and posted on their social media site, and they inform me that the only solution they are able to provide is to contact my local police department.

I have contacted the authorities but they have not responded to any of the reports I made online and I don’t blame them, since this is not a substantial amount in their eyes. To me, however, it is a lot of money.

Related story:   Help, I can't use my eBay gift card!

I have seen many people go through the same thing on social media. Target does nothing to investigate. Can you help me get my money back? — Joanna Lee, Visalia, Calif.

Answer: Target should have helped you recover your money. But they can be forgiven for their reluctance.

What you did — depleting a card and then loading it up to the $99 mark — may have looked suspicious from Target’s point of view. I’ve seen the forums where hackers and other low-lifes use their gift cards for all manner of mischief, and perhaps the $99 triggered an alarm.

I’m not saying you were up to no good, only that your actions might have looked suspicious. Target might have thought you were one of the bad guys.

When you persisted in calling Target, it should have been obvious that you weren’t a hacker. However, calling wasn’t the most efficient way to get Target’s attention. May I suggest sending a brief, polite email to one of these Target executive contacts?

Also, I have a few proven strategies for resolving any customer service complaint in the frequently asked questions section of my consumer advocacy website.

The terms on Target’s gift certificates are unambiguous. Once you’ve bought them, you’re responsible. But Target still has a duty to protect the value of your purchase, and at the very least it should have provided your police department with John’s contact information.

I contacted Target on your behalf. It credited you the missing $93.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Rebecca

    I was really curious as to why anyone would have 13 gift cards totalling $99. In almost all circumstances, this doesn’t make sense. Then I realized that it was probably several “bonus” gift cards that Target has when you buy a certain amount of items. I only get one once in a while, but they often have deals like “buy 4 packages of soap and get a $5 gift card”. So I guess that does make sense.

  • KanExplore

    I have not seen any forums where hackers talk about a strategy involving loading 13 gift cards to a total of $99. I can’t imagine they’d be interested in such low (if any) payoff, high maintenance activity. I have read about – and ignored – questionable strategies for moving thousands of dollars in and out of cards on a frequent basis, which could look a lot like money laundering. It looks much more likely to me that a criminal managed to get his hands on her gift card number.

  • Blamona

    Called the authorities? Bother police over a civil dispute, really?

  • jim6555

    It is criminal. The money was stolen from Joanna Lee’s account by someone named John. On the other hand, there is nothing that local police can do about small cyber crimes.

  • Fishplate

    This story sounds familiar. Is it another unmarked repeat, or are there a rash of people having Target gift cards depleted?

  • Lee Delong

    Not so. I have a legal issue Family Styles Hair Salon. The Sergeant in charge told me despite my evidence, without them hearing it from a higher up, she wasn’t doing more than taking an incident report.

  • Lee Delong


  • taxed2themax

    Perhaps, however, what your local law enforcement will, or won’t do, may perhaps be different from that of the OP. In this case, the OP appears to be from Visalia (Tulare Co.) so what the local municipal PD will or won’t do or the County Sheriff (if that was the agency in play) may or may not do, can vary from your agency.

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