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Gift Card Gotchas—America’s most popular holiday gift is fraught with problems

• Some retailers don’t accept split-tender transactions for bank-issued cards—using both the card and cash in a single purchase. So, many consumers wind up with extra money on their card, but not enough to make a single purchase.

• When buying, avoid card racks and instead purchase from behind the counter. Scammers copy the activation numbers on cards displayed in aisles and use them to make online purchases after someone buys that card. Also look for scratched-off PINs.

• Always ask the cashier to activate the card and provide its amount in your presence.

Sid Kirchheimer is a freelance writer on ways to save money and avoid scams. He is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP Books/Sterling).

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