Shoppers are being warned as a new scam circulates in stores across the country, as millions of families and individuals prepare for the holiday season. The Better Business Bureau of Canada, a non-profit organization working to advance marketplace trust, is sounding the alarm bells over a new gift card scam currently making its rounds.

The scam takes place when the scammer has placed a self-printed barcode over top of the gift card’s original barcode, so that when customers buy their gift card, they actually load a completely separate gift card that the scammer has all the information for. 

“Scammers are always evolving their tactics,” said Simone Lis, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau, Mainland BC.

“What is happening currently is that scammers are taking empty gift cards home to reprint their barcodes to stick them on to another gift card in the store, so someone else pays for their card instead. If the customer pays for the card without double checking the scanned item at the checkout till, the stolen empty card would’ve been loaded with money instead of their own.” 

A number of instances of the new scam have been reported, including some across the province of B.C. Scams can be more common during the holiday shopping season, with the Better Business Bureau adding that scammers are likely to take advantage of the uptick in purchases. The organization has a number of recommendations on avoiding the newest gift card scam:

Know who you are buying from.

Don’t use third-party websites that offer to check your gift card’s balance.

Be wary of the value of your card, especially if you’re buying from a small company.

Register your gift card if possible. 

Take a closer look at the activation pin and barcode. 

The scam has already stolen thousands of dollars in gift card balances, and the bureau hopes to prevent this number from getting any higher by spreading the word. Their website includes a holiday scam tracker, which includes resources to help shoppers avoid falling victim to the new scam. The scam can apply to gift cards in a number of categories and retail environments. 

“For example, the barcode for a $100 liquor store gift card would be placed on top of a barcode for a $100 Playstation Store gift card instead. If you don’t catch the con during checkout, you end up activating their card instead of yours,” explained a release by the bureau.

Those who find a potentially compromised card are asked to return it to the store’s customer service desk before picking out a new one.