Look carefully at those gift cards that line store shelves, especially at the impulse-buy racks toward the checkout stands.
Someone has been tampering with them in the Bay Area, in a new scheme to bilk cash from unsuspecting buyers.
Here's how it works:
Someone buys a gift card and has the clerk put a small amount, such as $5 or $10 on it. Meanwhile, they steal an armload of other blank cards.
When they get home, they copy the scanner code of the one they purchased, duplicate it and attach it to the stolen cards, which they replace on the shelves.
Then, when someone buys a card and puts money on it, the money goes to the card the thieves opened up, instead of to the person who is supposed to get the gift.
It's happened three times in Santa Cruz at Safeway stores, where thieves doctored American Express gift cards, according to deputy April Skalland.
The department is checking fraudulent cards for fingerprints and DNA, but for now, Skalland suggests that people only buy gift cards that are in locked containers. If you buy an open card, check the video to see what the fake cards may look like.