A successful Amazon gift card case. How did he do it?

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By | June 11th, 2017

Nick Gill succeeded at something our advocates haven’t had any luck with: getting his missing balance restored to his Amazon.com gift cards.

Missing gift card balances make up a significant percentage of our case inventory. And unfortunately, silence is all we have to show for our attempts to reach out to Amazon on behalf of various readers who have contacted us for help. We’ve issued a number of warnings to our readers to avoid gift cards and pay with cash or credit cards.

So how was Gill able to accomplish what we couldn’t?

His story has a familiar beginning: He redeemed 15,000 Chase credit card points to purchase three $50 gift cards from Amazon. There were no expiration dates listed on the cards, so he assumed that they were good indefinitely and did not immediately add them to his Amazon account. About two months later, Gill attempted to use the cards to pay for a purchase, only to be told that the card balances had already been used.

The cards also lacked any scratch-off codes for activation, so the card numbers might have been copied and used before Gill received them. Gill suspects that this is what happened to his card balances:

My suspicion is someone at the credit card rewards processing department did just that and then sold the numbers. These were used about exactly one month after I ordered them, so it seems they float the numbers for 30 days, then if the cards still have an unused balance, sell them on raise.com, Craigslist, etc. Or they waited until the cards were no longer working and then sold all the numbers they stole.

Gill contacted Amazon to ask that his balances be restored. (Executive contact information for Amazon is available on our website.)

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He notes that it’s a violation of Amazon’s conditions of use to sell or purchase its gift cards on the secondary market: “Amazon will shut off your account if they catch you buying cards at those places, or if you add too many gift card codes to your account that come back as already claimed. Plus it seems in the event of a disputed gift card they will remove that amount from your gift card balance if they think you broke their TOS.”

Amazon’s conditions of use don’t specifically address its gift cards except to declare that:

When you use an Amazon Service (for example, Your Profile, Gift Cards, Amazon Video, Your Media Library, or Amazon applications for mobile) you also will be subject to the guidelines, terms and agreements applicable to that Amazon Service (“Service Terms”). If these Conditions of Use are inconsistent with the Service Terms, those Service Terms will control.

But the conditions do disclaim liability for anything Amazon sells:

Subject to your compliance with these Conditions of Use and your payment of any applicable fees, Amazon or its content providers grant you a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-sublicensable license to access and make personal and non-commercial use of the Amazon Services. This license does not include any resale or commercial use of any Amazon Service, or its contents;…any downloading, copying, or other use of account information for the benefit of any third party;…No Amazon Service, nor any part of any Amazon Service, may be reproduced, duplicated, copied, sold, resold, visited, or otherwise exploited for any commercial purpose without express written consent of Amazon… You may not misuse the Amazon Services. You may use the Amazon Services only as permitted by law. The licenses granted by Amazon terminate if you do not comply with these Conditions of Use or any Service Terms…

All items purchased from Amazon are made pursuant to a shipment contract. This means that the risk of loss and title for such items pass to you upon our delivery to the carrier…

The Amazon services…included on or otherwise made available to you through the Amazon services are provided by Amazon on an “as is” and “as available” basis, unless otherwise specified in writing. Amazon makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation of the Amazon services…or other services included on or otherwise made available to you through the Amazon services, unless otherwise specified in writing. You expressly agree that your use of the Amazon services is at your sole risk.

So purchasers of Amazon gift cards are on their own — especially if they didn’t obtain the cards through regular channels.

Gill somehow managed to speak to an Amazon customer service representative. He mentioned that the cards he received should have been issued with a scratch-off code and the numbers must have been stolen before he received the cards.

He gave Amazon permission to contact Chase to verify that the codes were issued to him and requested that the issue be forwarded to an Amazon supervisor. In addition, Gill mentioned that he’s been an Amazon customer for 15 years and regularly makes purchases with his account. This course of action persuaded Amazon to add the balances of Gill’s gift cards to his account.

We congratulate Gill on his successful self-advocacy with Amazon and express the hope that his story is the beginning of a trend where issuers of gift cards restore balances that were stolen or wrongfully confiscated.

  • Bill___A

    I’m glad it worked out for him. I expect that the other people having trouble with gift cards are at the other end of the scam, being the ones sold the numbers that were issued to others…Maybe places like chase should electronically issue them by email, that way no one else would even see them, just the recipient…

  • Annie M

    He may have unearthed the reason you don’t hear back from Amazon on many of those claims that come in. Most of those folks that had problems bought the cards through secondary markets.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    His case does raise an interesting issue. As he pointed out, only the employees sending the cards could have reasonably stolen the information. Doesn’t Amazon (if they sent the cards) or Chase (if they sent them), reasonably owe the OP a duty to ensure that the card numbers are kept confidential? Given that duty, I think there is a negligence issue at work here.

  • Rebecca

    You’re absolutely right. And the ones that don’t have cards from the secondary market are running some sort of scam, usually involving points.

    I always point out, along with plenty of others, that if someone obtained all their gift cards from a legitimate source, surely Amazon wouldn’t just blow them off. And, lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened. Restores the faith.

  • Carol Molloy

    Don’t you think it is odd, if the issuer did recycle numbers, that there isn’t a monitoring program in place to catch that? Looking at the length of these gift card identification numbers, they shouldn’t run out of permutations. Makes me wonder if there are poor controls that facilitate this kind of fraud.

  • redragtopstl

    Many credit cards use fulfillment companies to fill their orders for gift cards (Amazon, restaurants, etc.). Possibly someone @ the fulfillment house is to blame for the OP’s problem.

    We’ve not had this issue (we almost always redeem our points for restaurant gift cards), but you can bet I’ll start looking more carefully at the back of our cards from now on when we get them.

  • Alan Gore

    LW bought his gift card the fair and square way, through an Amazon partner. His only mistake was not to immediately apply the value to his Amazon account. Once there, the value can sit there indefinitely.

    Every few months I bring my tub of accumulated small change to a Coinstar, which issues Amazon cards for full value. Even though there is no physical card involved with such a transaction, I always apply the balance immediately.

  • Noah Kimmel

    if you can’t prove who did it, you can’t prove who has the reasonable burden. Both companies made good faith in the sale and sending of gift info. Lots of people with random number generators and scripts running can crack codes past a “reasonable duty”.

    Hopefully, Amazon looked up the cards, saw where they were used, and tried to trace back to catch someone.

  • AMA

    I do the same with the Coinstar machines. I put the receipt code into my account immediately, check to make sure it’s there, and shred the receipt. Maybe the gift card people should be told to deposit the balance onto their account as soon as they get the card, instead of having it sit around until they want to buy something.

  • Annie M

    A lot of these issues are also purchased with Bitcoin I noticed too.

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