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Ah, the gift card – if there could possibly be a tackier, more tasteless present than money. We were told never to gift money, but at least it was practical. Gift cards are not only impersonal and unpractical, but downright dangerous! And that’s just the beginning!

High-Risk

There is now such a thing as gift-card cloning, where not-yet-activated gift cards are stolen from store shelves. The card data is reproduced, often by means of a magnetic card reader. Then, the thieves put the cards back on the shelves and wait for a hapless consumer to buy and activate them.

Then, they go online to see when the cards are activated or call the toll-free numbers on the back. They money on the card is spent at once, leaving the giftee or buyer empty-handed.

The Retailer Might Close

Macy’s and Sears closed some locations, as did a number of mall-based chains, including Wet Seal, The Limited, and American Apparel. The chains shut down all of their stores. Dining venues aren’t doing much better. Applebee’s and Joe’s Crab Shack are among the franchises that closed some locations, in many cases without warning their guests or staff.

If you buy someone a gift card and they don’t use immediately, they could be left empty-handed if the store closes down. It’s a lot of work to keep up with the wave of retail closures and bankruptcies, which is a major reason to avoid buying gift cards, even prepaid ones from AmEx, Visa, or Mastercard.

They’re Tacky!

Back to what we started with. A gift card is as impersonal a present as you can get. It’s like saying, “I don’t know you, but here’s a little something just so you don’t think I forgot your special day.”