Man shares warning after gift card funds stolen

18 January 2023

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Loudon County man has a warning after funds in a gift card were stolen while he had the card in his possession.

Brian Vaughan’s fiancée was given a Vanilla prepaid Visa gift card as a Christmas gift. However, when the couple when to use it, the funds were depleted. Gift cards have become the popular go-to present. You can find them on display at major retail stores, but imagine the embarrassment when you decide to cash it, only to find out the funds had been depleted.

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“This is a prepaid Vanilla Visa gift that was purchased from my mother to give to my new fiancée for Christmas,” said Vaughan.

Vaughan said he and his family have used Vanilla Gift Cards with no issues for years. The cards can be found at kiosks where scammers have easy access and can tamper with them. Vaughan’s mother gave her future daughter-in-law, Tonya, her card on December 12.

“We were excited about using it for things she wanted to get. Now we don’t have that chance,” said Vaughan.

A few weeks after it was purchased, they doubled checked to make sure the funds were correct.

“We checked the balance, we went on here. It had a balance of $400,” said Vaughan.

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Then on January 2, they went to their local grocery store where they used the card.

“We loaded up our buggy full of groceries. We went to check out and the embarrassment started when they said we had insufficient funds on the prepaid card. It said $3,” said Vaughan. “Apparently somebody through Cash App named Yawo Edoh drew $148 of it at 4:45 in the morning. And at 4:45 this other account drew the other $249 off.”

Transactions showing the money being taken from the gift card. (WATE)

Security experts say will scammers quietly take a bunch of these cards off the rack, flip them over to expose the activation information, take pictures, then put them back on the rack. That’s apparently what happened in this case.

Vaughan has spoken to the manager of the store where the card was purchased.

“He stated to me that he removed all of them off the shelf,” said Vaughan. has some practical advice: pick gift cards that are harder to reach or in the middle of the stack of gift cards. Buy cards that are locked up or behind the cashier or send a gift card electronically through email, it’s the safest.

“Until they fix this situation and address this issue, I would not use them or purchase them at all,” said Vaughan.

WATE reached out to Income Financial Services, the company that owns Vanilla Gift Cards, for a comment, but we have not heard back. If you purchase a gift card from a kiosk at your grocery store or pharmacy, the Federal Trade Commission recommends doing a thorough check of the gift card before purchasing it. If any vital information is visible on the back of the gift card, it’s best not to buy it, as it could be susceptible to these kinds of scams.

Lastly, it’s best to keep either the gift card’s ID number or the receipt from your purchase. In the event of any incidents, this is the best way to file a report or have any chance at getting money back.

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