Proos: Be careful when buying gift cards

LANSING—Sen. John Proos is reminding Southwest Michigan residents who are considering giving gift cards this Christmas to be mindful of potential scams and card restrictions.

“A gift card can be the perfect solution to the problem of finding something for that hard-to-shop-for friend or family member,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Like any gift, the biggest problem with gift cards is ensuring that the recipient will enjoy using it. In fact, it is estimated that nearly $2 billion of gift cards bought last year will never be redeemed. By following a few rules of thumb when considering buying a gift card, you can make sure everyone has a Merry Christmas.”

The Michigan attorney general suggests a few tips when buying a gift card, such as:
• Read the fine print with particular attention on restrictions and expiration dates;
• Check to see if there is a replacement policy for lost or stolen cards; and
• Ask for an extra receipt for you to keep. Give the original receipt with the card so the recipient has it in case the card is lost or stolen or if an error occurs and a merchant indicates that there is less value on the card than you purchased.

Proos said two important rules in Michigan to understand are: Gift cards purchased after August 22, 2010 cannot expire within five years of purchase, and merchants cannot charge inactivity or other service fees and deduct them from the value of the gift certificate.

“While the growth of Internet shopping has increased convenience for consumers, it also has expanded the outreach of scam artists looking to take your money,” Proos said. “There are some simple guidelines to follow that can help you avoid scams or unclear restrictions. For example, only buy gift cards from reputable sources and inspect the card before you buy it.

“Gift cards can be an excellent option; I encourage all Michigan families to follow consumer guidelines highlighted by the Attorney General Bill Schuette. If you find a scam, report it to the attorney general’s office.”

For more information from the Michigan attorney general on gift cards and gift certificates, visit the A.G.’s website at www.michigan.gov/ag and search “gift cards.”  Residents may report a suspected scam to the Michigan attorney general by calling 1-877-765-8388 or by clicking “Complaints” on the website to learn how to file a complaint online or by U.S. mail.

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Editor’s Note – Audio comments by Sen. Proos are available on the senator’s webpage at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Podcasts.”