October 17, 2007

Unscientific Survey on Gift Card Related Crimes

The basis for the survey was originally intended to see how often gift cards were involved in crimes, whether directly or indirectly. By searching on Google News for articles related in gift cards, police, and crime published in the entire month on September, a sample pool of data points was assembled. After removing redundant and non-crime related articles, a pattern emerged grouping the crimes into three main categories, identity theft, embezzlement, and robbery.

Identity theft relates to any criminal activities in which a victim’s identity or credit cards were utilized to make fraudulent purchases. Embezzlement were any criminal activities perpetuated by an employee against the employer. Robbery was considered to be any criminal act in which the assailant burglarized or stole from a victim. Overall, there were eight identity thefts, ten embezzlements, and twelve robberies.

Besides the low numbers of crime related to gift card, the surprising discovery was that employee related crimes, whether it was direct embezzlement of gift cards or identity theft of patrons’ credit card, constituted a large portion of the total crimes. Employees find gift cards easier to steal, activate and convert into cash than merchandise. Furthermore, some restaurant employees have exploited loop holes with bank gift cards to give themselves a very large tip at the expense of the restaurant. Retailers and employers need to be vigilant against employee embezzlement as it can be difficult to detect early on before significant loss is incurred.

As for robberies related to gift cards, the majority of gift cards were stolen from victims during vehicle burglary and wedding. Vehicle burglary is easy to explain, but wedding crashing? Gift cards do make the good gifts, especially for weddings and it seems some people are willing to crash weddings to steal gift cards and cash. Remember to register your gift card if the merchant offers that service or keep a copy of the receipt with the gift card numbers as this can help facilitate with reissuing stolen gift cards. Lastly, treat your gift cards like cash. Do not leave it out in plain sight in your car. This will beckon thieves to smash your window and grab the gift cards.

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