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Fraud Watch: Gift card scams

HELENA – Holiday shopping can be stressful and many people buy gift cards for friends and family on their shopping lists to help alleviate some of that stress.

Gift cards can be a great option but you need to know what to look for when you pick up a few.

“When you’re looking at the gift card, you need to see if the seals are still on the gift cards,” explained Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection Investigator Marcus Meyer.

If the card is purchased in Montana for a business in the state, Meyer said, “If a gift card can be used at one location, there is no expiration date for that particular seller.”

Gift cards that can be used for multiple locations, like a chamber of commerce card or Downtown Helena for example, have different rules.

“After one year, they can have fees attached to those cards so they don’t fall under the regulation of the gift card regulations for the state of Montana,” added Meyer.

Also, if you have a card that has five dollars or less on it, there’s another way you can use it.

“Then they can cash those cards out for what’s left on the card,” reminded Meyer, so long as the card’s original value was more than five dollars.

Meyer also added that cards like a Visa gift card, that’s not one business specific, does not fall under the same laws in Montana so those can be subject to fees and expiration dates.