The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office has issued a warning for holiday shoppers about buying gift cards.
Police were able to arrest a suspect linked to a large gift card scam at over 50 Target stores across the state.
Undercover officers were placed at Target stores in Sacramento for “Operation Bad Elf” in order to combat organized retail theft.
According to police, the suspect took the cards off the rack, tampered with them, and put them back. When confronted, over 200 cards were found on him, including 5,000 Target and Apple gift cards found inside his car.
“If it hadn’t been for ‘Operation Bad Elf,’ if we hadn’t been at that location, that specific Target would have been a victim of it,” said Detective David Derouen.
The suspect has been identified as Ningning Sun, noting that he lived in different places in California and nearby states.
According to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s office, the cards were traced to 54 Target stores in 12 counties across the state. Investigators say there could be thousands of fraudulent gift cards still on racks in Target stores spanning from Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Central Valley.
Detective Andy Cater said that “[Retailers] need to put these behind the shelves, they need to control access to them, or they need to completely take them off the shelf.”
Scammers allegedly swap barcodes on gift cards, reseal them, and then wait for customers to buy them.
“When the consumer goes to check out, the cashier is loading the consumer’s funds to that barcode but it’s not to the physical card the consumer is holding, it’s to the card the scammers own,” said Daniel Stiner, with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Sacramento.
To stay safe, BBB Sacramento is urging holiday shoppers to check gift cards carefully before buying. If you see any tears on the card, choose a different one.