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Kim’s Catch: Vanilla Gift Card Funds Depleted Before Activation

Person Holding Blue Box

Here’s the catch:  "‘Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house, every creature was stirring even Kevin’s spouse. Mary pulled out her Vanilla Gift Card so shiny and bright, but was sad to discover the funds were quite light. Certainly there was a mistake for this gift was from mother. There’s no way it could have been used by another. The card was brand new, sealed in its pack. How the balance could be zero just didn’t track. What customer service confirmed left her bemused. The money was depleted, the card already had been used. The news hit her like a battering ram. She was another victim of the Vanilla Gift Card scam."

The scenario in the tale mirrors many of the complaints received by Business Consumer Alliance and other review sites. Customers purchase or receive brand new Vanilla Gift Cards, only to find the money loaded on them is depleted upon activation. Customers have lost hundreds of dollars to these gift card scams and the number of complaints continues to grow. Some claim that scammers may be gaining access to the funds by using the serial numbers printed on the back of the packaging.

The majority of the complaints directed by BCA to InComm, the owner of Vanilla Gift Cards, remain unanswered. To date, 98 of the 86 complaints filed against the company have been ignored. The company has an F rating.

Free Collection of bright present paper bags with natural handles near gift card with ribbon Stock Photo

Kim’s Advice:  Gift cards are an easy way to send a gift, make purchases, and even pay bills. However, scams can ruin the kind gesture a gift card is intended to relay. Thieves often steal activation codes and other information from the cards. They then monitor the cards for activation and clear out the balances before the gift recipient even knows. This is not a problem exclusive to Vanilla Gift Card users. It can happen with any retail gift card. What do you do if the money on your card is stolen?

The first thing you should do is contact the retailer immediately to report the problem. They should be able to investigate when and where the funds were used. The retailer may issue a refund, provide a replacement card, or some other form of relief. Next, file a complaint. This helps warn others of potential problems and helps shoppers make more informed decisions. You can also report claims of fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at

Some helpful tips to keep in mind when buying gift cards are:

  • Only purchase gift cards from trusted retailers. Online auction sites are not a good source for purchasing gift cards. They may be fake or stolen.
  • Check out the card to make sure protective stickers are on the card and there are no signs of tampering. If you see spot problems, get a different card.
  • Keep your receipt. You will need this information if there is a problem or you lose the card.

Visit BCA’s Facebook page to keep track of scams, consumer alerts, and useful tips to keep you informed. Make sure to like and share with others so they are not caught off guard by these types of scams.

About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.