LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — What was supposed to be a happy exchange for Amanda Lindemann turned into a headache when the young Nevada woman realized gift cards her boyfriend bought her had already been redeemed.
Lindemann took her frustrations to TikTok, and then called the I-Team. Tens of thousands of people have viewed her series of videos on social media, commenting about their experiences with losing money.
Receipts show her boyfriend had purchased four $100 Apple gift cards for her at a Las Vegas-area Target in mid-January. The pair celebrated Christmas on Valentine’s Day weekend, as they are in a long-distance relationship.
“Him giving me those cards just showed that he was trying to support my dream of wanting to open my shop,” Lindemann said.
But when she went to redeem the cards for an iPad to help run a stationary store on Etsy, the money was gone.
“To see that all of the money had been taken, our jaws both dropped,” Lindemann said.
She estimated she has been in contact with both Apple and Target at least a dozen times, but as of Tuesday, she has not received any money back.
A class action lawsuit filed in federal court highlights a similar project. According to court documents, a California woman is suing Apple over a $50 gift card she bought for her son at a Walmart. When the son went to spend the money, it too was gone.
“It’s a big problem everywhere,” Rhonda Mettler, operation director at the Better Business Bureau of Southern Nevada, said. She investigates cases similar to Lindemann’s.
“As soon as that card is activated, they’ve got that information, and they can just drain it dry,” Mettler explained.
To protect yourself, the best action you can take as a consumer is to use the card as soon as possible and register it with the company, if that option is available. When you are buying a gift card for someone else, make sure to inspect the packaging for any defects or possible tampering, Mettler urged.
“To have access to that number, you have to break a seal, you had to slide open the sticker seal,” Lindemann said about the process to get the number on the Apple card.
It is unclear how the numbers are being stolen and whether it is happening from the physical card or in the activation process. Stores selling gift cards activate them at the register, which itself is a preventative theft measure, so the card themselves are not stolen, since they have no value until activation.
Lindemann said an Apple representative told her that her four cards had been drained within 30 minutes after her boyfriend bought them. By the time she opened her presents in mid-February, the cards had been empty for a month.
“Ultimately, I wanted to get the story out to see who it is affecting, and clearly, it’s affecting a lot of people,” she said.
The I-Team contacted both Apple and Target about Lindemann’s issue. She also filed a complaint with the BBB.
Both companies asked the I-Team for Lindemann’s information. A representative from Target said once the card is activated, only Apple can help with a potential refund.
Apple did not provide a further response, but terms and conditions on its website say neither the store that sells the card nor Apple are responsible for “any lost or stolen gift cards or use without your permission.”
Lindemann said she just wants to buy that iPad, and either way, her boyfriend is out $400 someone else spent.
The BBB provides many resources about avoiding gift card scams and keeping your money safe.