This is how a Craigslist thief easily stole his Target gift card

A Craigslist thief stole his Target gift card

Tony Tucker has a sad tale to tell. A Craigslist thief stole his Target gift card. Now he’s empty-handed, and he wants to know if we can convince Target to return the lost $284.  

Tucker’s story is a reminder that there are multiple ways that thieves can steal gift cards, and these scammers are often one step ahead of the average consumer in their methods.

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However, in this case, it seems that Tucker did something so ill-advised that the outcome was almost certainly guaranteed (we’ll get to that in a minute).

Exchanging a mixer for a Target gift card

Tucker’s story began when he won a KitchenAid mixer from his employer. Since he did not need the mixer, he took it to his local Target store and asked if he could return it without a receipt. A Target employee allowed him to do so and exchanged the mixer for the $284 Target gift card.

I’ll let Tucker explain what happened next:

I decided to sell the Target gift card and use the cash to take care of a couple of bills at the house. I posted an ad on Craigslist. Here is what the ad stated: Received Target gift card as a gift — Has balance of $284. Selling for $260. I haven’t scratched off the PIN.

A buyer or a Craigslist thief?

He quickly received a response from a potential buyer, and he began negotiating. This buyer was willing to pay $250 for the card.

He asked me if we could check the balance on the gift card while he was on the phone. I said no because I hadn’t and wasn’t going to scratch the back of the card. You see, I wanted the person who bought the card to know that I didn’t have any knowledge of the card number/PIN. I told him that I could send him a copy of the gift card and the part of the receipt showing the balance. Then I sent this information to him and told him I would give him a call the following day if I didn’t get any responses at $260 and he said OK. I sent him a text the next day and called his number. I didn’t get a response and I didn’t think much about it.

That “buyer” quickly stole his Target Gift card value

Yes, Tucker gave a picture of all the numbers on the back of his gift card and a copy of the receipt to this stranger. He was under the impression that the PIN code is necessary to redeem the card. It isn’t. By providing the photo of the barcode, Tucker had given the thief all the information he needed to steal his card.

And that is what happened. Several days later, Tucker scratched the PIN code off and checked the balance.

Tucker contacted Target and explained that his gift card was stolen and asked for a new one. Interestingly, he did not mention his Craigslist encounter when making the report. Their research team investigated and, afterward, told Tucker that Target would not be replacing his card.

The denial letter stated that Tucker had been given the card directly from a cash register drawer in the Target store. Therefore it could not have been tampered with on Target’s end. The letter pointed out that any theft of the card had happened while it was in his possession.

Target treats stolen gift cards like stolen money

In its final word on his case a Target representative explained, “Target treats its gift cards like money, and we are not at fault in this situation, so this means we’re unable to support a replacement.”

But Tucker wasn’t satisfied with Target’s response. So he asked if there was a route to an appeal of his case. Target’s representatives told him that he would need to file a police report to begin a reconsideration of his case. He declined, saying “it would be a waste of time. They (the police) have more pressing issues than trying to help me recover $284.”

Tucker then contacted our advocacy team through our helpline. He asked if we thought Target should give him a new gift card.

Unfortunately for Tucker, we agreed with the retailer in his case. By sharing a picture of his gift card with a stranger, he was responsible for the theft of his Target gift card. We can’t ask Target to bear the financial responsibility for this mistake.

The Bottom line

The selling and reselling of gift cards is a thriving business on Craigslist. But beware. Gift card fraud is also a thriving “business.” It’s essential to proceed with caution if you decide to buy or sell gift cards on any third-party platform. And it goes without saying that you should never send a picture of your card to a potential buyer.

In fact, there may be a reason Tucker never mentioned his Craigslist fiasco to the Target research team. On its fraud awareness webpage, the retailer warns consumers not to buy or sell Target gift cards on any online marketplace.

Unfortunately, we can’t help Tucker. Hopefully, his story can help other consumers learn from his mistake and not fall prey to this type of gift card thievery.

Should we have advocated Tony Tucker's case?

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47 thoughts on “This is how a Craigslist thief easily stole his Target gift card

  1. gift cards are interest-free loans to the merchant, who hopes that you’ll forget about the card so they can keep the money.
    The OP chose….. POORLY in sending the information to a stranger. A nice $284 lesson.

    Can one of those cards be cashed in for the face value? or do you have to buy stuff with it? Selling it below par seems to be not so smart.

    1. You may not cash them due to money laundering restrictions. If one wishes to sell them, places like Cardpool will buy them at a discount, and he could have gotten $245 cash or $260 in Amazon credit. These places are fairly reliable to both sell to and purchase from, as long as you don’t let the balance just sit on the card.

      1. Thanks for that tidbit. Money laundering, hah? So, they won’t give you back your dough?
        I won’t have the problem; I won’t use gift cards. I don’t make free loans to strangers.
        One restaurant I’ll never go back because my DIL got us a card, but you can’t spend it all at one sitting – the greedy dirtbags want you to bring other people. I’ve been meaning to go to the owner and tell him why I won’t EVER go back. Pity; food was good.

        1. “you can’t spend it all at one sitting”

          I don’t understand that and have never run into that type of requirement on any gift before. Is it because the prices were so reasonable and the card had such a high value it was impossible to eat that much at one time? Or was there actually a restriction on the card that multiple visits were required?

          1. There were restrictions. You could only apply a portion to a main course, and another portion to a dessert, and i can’t now remember the specific details past that. Now, I, being a phat old phart, don’t order desserts. So, we couldn’t use up the card with 2 people eating fadinna. Consequently, I won’t patronize a dirtbag who is greedy. By being a greedy dirtbag, he lost a lot of subsequent business, in that I’d have done a General MacArthur, because his chow was good.

          2. In Japan gift cards really don’t exist except for things like Starbucks, iTunes, Amazon, and other digital merchandise (like online game coins, or monthly membership fees).

        2. Money laundering is actually a horrendous problem with gift cards. So is using stolen credit cards to purchase gift cards. You may have noticed that there is a limit to how many gift cards a retailer will permit you to purchase with a credit card (restriction does not apply to using a debit card to make the purchase). The penalties for facilitating money laundering are serious, and banks aren’t the only businesses that have to protect themselves from being participants in a money laundering scheme (even unintentionally).

          Another example of how the criminals are making life complicated for the innocent, unfortunately.

          1. The limit has nothing to do with money laundering and everything to do with fraud. The merchant is selling you their money.

          1. Starbucks BURNT COFFEE! It’s a BLEND! It’s a BLEND! Ha ha. See Jackie Mason on Starbucks! He wrote about it in his book, “Schmucks”.
            Itunes = why buy when they have free on iTunes?
            Amazon – My wife uses Amazon. She doesn’t use their gift cards.

            Gift: n, German. POISON.

          2. I hate buying whole albums of music. Theres often 1 or 2 songs I want to listen to, and buying music is cheaper than streaming it on data in Japan. We pay .75¥/packet, which means streaming one song (audio only) cost about the price of buying the song outright.

      2. Money laundering, I doubt it. I’m sure that’s what merchants claim, but the criminal incidences in the past involved far greater values in gift cards which are much easier to spot, not some individual with a single $284 gift card.

    2. Just remember how he acquired the gift card. His employer gave him a mixer as a gift. He went to Target to return an item for which he had no receipt. Target was not going to give him cash for the item, for a multitude of reasons, but gave him a gift card to buy something else.

      Personally, there are plenty of things to buy at Target and it would be easy to spend that. Groceries, clothes, toilet paper, whatever.

      In this case, it is not an interest free loan. Think of it as a store credit. If Target was going to issue a refund for the merchandise, it would have gone to the entity that purchase the product, the employer. Without a receipt, Target could have been within its rights to do nothing.

      1. There was probably a gift receipt he received along with the item. These are given by Target on most purchases so if it is a gift and something is wrong with it (broke, wrong size/color, whatever) you can exchange it. Otherwise, how would anyone know where the item was from?

        His better choice (and every one else as as well) would have been to buy something immediately with the gift card because as you mentioned Target does have a wide range of merchandise available at most stores that someone should be able to find something to buy.

        1. My company has a gift program for employees, that includes some surprising expensive items. no gift receipt is provided. The terms and conditions are that there are no returns on selected times, unless it is delivered in defective condition. Perhaps this is the why the OP did not have receipt for the stand mixer.

          Always feel a bit sad when life’s painful lessons are learned the hard way, particularly by trusting people. In my business I see victims of scams all the time, and it’s frustrating. The scammers are the real problem, not their victims.

        2. I doubt an employer would include a gift receipt. If I was going to ask for a gift receipt I’d say it was for the warranty. Regardless, Target refunds purchases with a gift receipt not as cash but as store credit, which would be a gift card, which the LW already had secured.

      2. In this case, you are correct, considering how he got the card. Shouldda got the receipt as well.

        In most other cases, gift cards are not good for you. See my post about the restaurant.

      3. Very true, Target from my past experience requires either a receipt or a searchable form of payment such as a credit card.

    3. He didn’t even buy the gift card. He returned something he received for free. If he could get cash, he would have gotten it then, instead of a gift card.

      1. see my post above in reply to Jeff. IN this case, u r right. In most other cases, gift cards are not good for you.
        Gift is the German word for POISON.

        1. Of course. But I have a few from gifts I’ve returned to stores I love and I’m excited to use them and a million that I’ve gotten in the mail from stores I already shop with for free so no downside to that.

          1. Free is good. Use ’em immediately.

            I won’t BUY them, unless it’s something like “Buy this for $80 and you get $100 buying power immediately.” Then use it. If they wanna give you $20, fine.

            gift, n., German: Poison

          2. You are so right. After this article I went to look and for one store, I found the return receipts but not the actual cards. I may be the next case on here if can’t find them.

    4. The LW didn’t buy it, they basically got stuff when what they really wanted was cash. In some states you must refund values. basically though gift cards is little more than privately minting your own currency.

  2. Wow, everything we have warned retail shoppers to avoid all wrapped up in one headline: gift cards, Target, Craigslist, scammers.

    1. It was probably from COSTCO or Amazon and the LW just researched who had the same SKU and Target had it at the highest value.

  3. Why didn’t he just sell the brand new kitchen aid mixer on eBay, etc for cash. It blows my mind that he thinks he is entitled to anything, especially when the item was gift in the first place.

    1. He wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the full value for it. Even new in box you can’t sell previously owned items for full retail price, and so much so that a gift card has broader appeal for resale than merchandise. Previously owned buyers expect deep discounts, and why shouldn’t they, they are taking all the risk. Selling the mixer on Craigs list would have gotten him around half the value so a $284 mixer would have gotten him around $150. He had a customer (Target) willing to give him full value for it, and then another customer willing to give him $250 that’s a much better deal. Even Raise would have given him more at 12% of the sale in fees and current market discount at around 3% less than value, that’s about 15% on a $284 card that’s $241.

      1. He got zero anyway. He should have regifted it then or put it on eBay. He could’ve gotten $250. Unfortunately, he probably would’ve mailed it to the buyer to “test” before getting the money. Kitchen aid mixers are expensive. I believe mine was $299 8 yrs ago. Also, the item would be new with tags.
        I listed some china on ebay just to gauge its value. I was offered $400 for just one of the salad plates. I got hundreds of replies and offers and its used. More than offers. He could have also sold it there.

      2. Sorry, Psy, I just confirmed those mixers are going for exactly what he tried to sell the target gift card for. He made a mistake. Next time wins a mixer he will know what to do.

          1. He did win a new one, but the moment he takes possession of it, it becomes used and previously owned.

          2. Absolutely, who is to say but him if he opened the box or not. Basically no matter how new or close to new or actually new something is, private individuals are not merchants. It’s the same rationale for buying a car, the moment you drive it off the lot, it’s used or previously owned.

      3. Obv a gift card is preferred but he should’ve found something else to buy at target or sold it for less on a more reputable gift card site. He paid nothing for it anyway. I would’ve sold the mixer or found something to buy at target. I’ve never been there but I imagine it sells toilet paper and stuff.

  4. I voted yes and for a really stupid reason. I don’t but this whole “I won’t file a police report, because the police have better things to do.” rational because, yes the police have better things to do, but the police would pass this case on to the FBI and yes they have better things to do as well, but that’s not this issue because Target didn’t ask for the thief to be apprehended for him to file an appeal to Target, they just wanted a police report. So me thinks, there is something else going on. So yes advocate for the LW, but do the advocating to the LW, who seems uninterested in taking the initiative to advocate their own issues. People have to learn to help themselves first.

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