During the holidays, many people purchase gifts cards for their friends and family so that they can be assured that the gift receiver was able to get something that they really wanted. Gift cards are now so popular that according to the National Retail Federation nearly $30 billion was spent on gift cards this past holiday season.
The detectives and deputies at Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station know that with new trends in spending, come new trends in crime. So now that the holidays are over, and you have a stack of gift cards waiting to be spent, we want you to be aware of a new gift card crime trend.
Trending throughout the Santa Clarita Valley as well as Los Angeles County are businesses purchasing gift cards, often times for pennies on the dollar. In Los Angeles County, including Santa Clarita, businesses wishing to purchase second hand items, like gifts cards and gold, are required to have a secondhand dealer’s license. This is to protect the public from unscrupulous businesses who take in property which they should know is stolen and purchase it from the person providing it without checking identification or asking any questions on how they acquired the items.
Many of these businesses purchasing gift cards do not have a secondhand dealer’s license and they do not ask the seller for identification, information on where the seller obtained the gift cards that he/she is selling, or any other information.
This provides easy access for thieves to sell stolen gift cards and turn them into quick cash.
Protect your gift cards by following the below tips:
* Treat all gift cards like cash. Keep them secure.
* Make sure to use gift cards as soon as possible, because it’s not unusual to lose or forget about them.
* Do not leave gift cards in your vehicle, and never leave your gift cards in plain view for would be thieves to see.
* Check to see if you have a receipt with the gift card just in case the card is later lost or stolen. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, while other issuers will, for a fee.
* Never leave your purse or wallet unattended, it just takes seconds to swipe gift cards.
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputies are currently investigating numerous cases of gift card thefts, and have tracked them to businesses that have purchased the gift cards without the appropriate licenses. These gift card thefts often start as a theft from an unlocked vehicle, cards swiped from an unattended purse or wallet, or a burglary.
There are legal websites and secondhand dealers available to sell and trade gift cards. Businesses that are legally able to buy gift cards, jewelry, gold, and other property will have a secondhand dealer’s license displayed for the public to see.
Gift card theft cases are very labor intensive and it is very difficult to locate suspects. Deputies are asking your help in safe guarding your gift cards and valuables. Take the extra time to lock your vehicles, secure your belongings, and report suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.
Remember, by continuing to work together, we will send a “Not in Santa Clarita” message to thieves and those who encourage theft by illegally purchasing second hand items.