December 8, 2009

Warning! If You Shop Online For the Holidays You Need to Read This

A few weeks ago during Black Friday, I received a gift card that was for online use only. And if you've ever received a gift card by email then you know that there's a gift code sent to you that's needed in order for you to cash in on that card.

Not thinking anything of it, I typed the code into the website's claim box and prepared myself for some after Thanksgiving holiday shopping. But instead, what I got was a response stating that this gift code has already been claimed. My first thought was, "Well, maybe I entered it in wrong.", so I tried it again. This time I got Error, we cannot process this gift code. Please contact customer service.

By now I was slightly panicking because I'd planned on using that gift card for Christmas gifts for the kids. At the time we didn't have much Christmas money and what money we were saving we'd planned on using for gas for travel during the holidays to pick kids up, etc.

When I talked to customer service, I was told my biggest fear. The gift card had already been claimed and used. They then said they would look into the issue. So then I contacted the sender of the card because I wondered if maybe the same gift card was sent to more than just myself. I learned it wasn't.

So now I finally wondered, is it possible someone had hacked into my email account and stolen the code for their own personal use? Yes of course it was and I suddenly found myself angry that someone had stolen my kids' Christmas gifts! What was even worse was the fact that I'd also just read the fine print of the claim code for that card which stated the company was not responsible for lost or stolen gift cards!

My day had just went from fantastic, to worry, to pissed off -all in a matter of 30 minutes. So I did the only thing I could and went shopping for Christmas gifts offline. It was a much needed break out of town and lowered my stress level. Which by the way, I'd like to thank my father-in-law for dinner!

Then about a week later I decided to wrap up my holiday shopping for my husband on the same website I was planning to use the gift card. They had some really unique stuff and since my hubby is so darn picky, I figured this would be a great place to shop.

After placing my order with a credit card, I received a notice stating thank you for your purchase, your gift card balance is now..... So after recovering from a little shock, I called customer service who then stated that yes, my gift card balance was correct and the matter of the issue had been resolved. They gave me no other explanation other than that.

Then I checked my email not long after I'd made the phone call and discovered an email from them. In the email it said, the issue has been resolved since it looks like you were able to claim the code and use your gift card. Huh??? I'd never re-entered that code!

So even though I have the gift card back, it doesn't mean it really makes up for things. I mean yes, I should be happy I have the gift card. But, I spent more on 5 kids than on the hubby and there's still a remaining balance on the card. I can't simply use that card to make up for the gas money I used from the holiday travel account I was saving and I'm still not sure what exactly happened to the gift card.

Was there an error on their end and the card's balance just wasn't showing up or did someone really hack into my email account and steal the card's claim code and the company decided to reimburse me for it? Either way it has left me much more cautious to the fact that I won't be sending any online gift cards and I'd prefer not to receive them if at all possible (or if I do I'll be spending them immediately).

And for important email I've realized that no email address is safe. Even if it's for business use only. I learned that well after my experience with the holiday gift card. I had a twitter account user send me junk mail to my resume business email address which I don't give out to anyone but major companies that are hiring. Yet, somehow this individual had my email address. Hmm.

Everyone is out to make and steal a buck any way they can and it all boils down to, the easiest way to do that is through email. So please be careful when you're shopping online for the holidays! I don't like the idea of any child going without Christmas gifts all because of a greedy thief!