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This is how a Craigslist thief easily stole his Target gift card

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

Tony Tucker has a sad tale to tell. A Craigslist thief stole his Target gift card. Now he’s empty-handed, and he wants to know if we can convince Target to return the lost $284.  

Tucker’s story is a reminder that there are multiple ways that thieves can steal gift cards, and these scammers are often one step ahead of the average consumer in their methods.

However, in this case, it seems that Tucker did something so ill-advised that the outcome was almost certainly guaranteed.

Exchanging a mixer for a Target gift card

Tucker’s story began when he won a KitchenAid mixer from his employer. Since he did not need the mixer, he took it to his local Target store and asked if he could return it without a receipt. A Target employee allowed him to do so and exchanged the mixer for the $284 Target gift card.

With his newly minted gift card in hand, he came up with an idea to turn it into cash instead.

I decided to sell the Target gift card and use the money to take care of a couple of bills at the house. I posted an ad on Craigslist. Here is what the ad stated: Received Target gift card as a gift — Has balance of $284. Selling for $260. I haven’t scratched off the PIN.

A buyer or a Craigslist gift card thief?

Tucker quickly received a response from a potential buyer, and he began negotiating. This buyer was willing to pay $250 for the card.

He asked me if we could check the balance on the gift card while he was on the phone. I said no because I hadn’t and wasn’t going to scratch the back of the card. You see, I wanted the person who bought the card to know that I didn’t have any knowledge of the card number/PIN.

I told him that I could send him a copy of the gift card and the part of the receipt showing the balance. Then I sent this information to him and told him I would give him a call the following day if I didn’t get any responses at $260 and he said OK. I sent him a text the next day and called his number. I didn’t get a response and I didn’t think much about it.

That “buyer” quickly stole his Target gift card

Yes, Tucker gave a picture of all the numbers on the back of his gift card and a copy of the receipt to this stranger. He was under the impression that the PIN code is necessary to redeem the card. It isn’t. By providing the photo of the barcode, Tucker had given the thief all the information he needed to steal his card.

And that is what happened. Several days later, Tucker scratched the PIN code off and checked the balance.

Tucker contacted Target and explained that his gift card was stolen and asked for a new one. Interestingly, he did not mention his Craigslist encounter when making the report. Their research team investigated and, afterward, told Tucker that Target would not be replacing his card.

The denial letter stated that Tucker had been given the card directly from a cash register drawer in the Target store. Therefore it could not have been tampered with on Target’s end. The letter pointed out that any theft of the card had happened while it was in his possession.

Target treats gift cards like cash and so should you

In its final word on his case, a Target representative explained, “Target treats its gift cards like money, and we are not at fault in this situation, so this means we’re unable to support a replacement.”

But Tucker wasn’t satisfied with Target’s response. So he asked if there was a route to an appeal of his case. Target’s representatives told him that he would need to file a police report to begin reconsidering his case. He declined, saying, “it would be a waste of time. They (the police) have more pressing issues than trying to help me recover $284.”

Tucker then contacted our advocacy team. He asked me if I thought Target should give him a new gift card to replace the one the Craigslist’s thief stole.

Unfortunately for Tucker, I had to agree with the retailer in his case. By sharing a picture of his gift card with a complete stranger, he was responsible for the theft of his Target gift card. It isn’t reasonable to ask Target to bear the financial responsibility for this mistake.

The Bottom line

The selling and reselling of gift cards is a thriving business on Craigslist. But beware. Gift card fraud is also a thriving “business.”

It’s essential to proceed with caution if you decide to buy or sell gift cards on any third-party platform. And it goes without saying that you should never send a picture of your gift card and its numbers to a potential buyer via email or text.

In fact, there may be a reason Tucker never mentioned his Craigslist fiasco to the Target research team. On its fraud awareness webpage, the retailer specifically warns consumers not to buy or sell Target gift cards on any online marketplace.

Unfortunately, we can’t help Tucker. Hopefully, his story can help other consumers learn from his mistake and not fall prey to this type of gift card thievery.

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.
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Could he have gone to the police with the person’s phone # and the card?

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Well… probably but it isn’t likely that the police would have become involved for such a small amount. Especially since the person on the other end could have claimed he paid him in cash … there are lots of gift card shenanigans out there on both sides of the gift card buyer and seller equation.


A Target gift card is as good as cash, which is why it’s a popular one for scammers. It’s a shame OP didn’t just keep it and use it himself. He also could’ve sold the mixer itself and found a legitimate buyer.

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