Gift cards are great options for birthdays or as a gift for a special occasion, but make sure you know the risks you’re taking if you ship one.
Employee theft within the United States Postal Service makes headlines and plagues post offices nationwide. More than 145,000 lost or stolen mail complaints were filed with the service over the last two years.
Those statistics hit home for Janet Irgang after a thoughtful gesture for her granddaughters took a nasty turn last year.
"Just a little something to say grandma loves you. I’m thinking of you,” said Irgang.
Using her debit card, she bought two Amazon gift cards at Walgreens and mailed them to her granddaughters who are away at college.
She knew something went wrong when she didn’t receive a call from either of them. Fearing they had fallen into the wrong hands, she asked Walgreens to deactivate the cards.
"I begged for them to deactivate, not to give me my money back, just deactivate the cards. They said, 'Sorry, lady - that’s your problem,” explained Irgang.
She said she got the same story from Amazon.
"I thought I would fall through the floor. I really did,” Irgang said.
There’s no federal statue or regulation requiring any seller of gift cards to deactivate them when they are reported as missing or stolen. Irgang said she’s having a hard time forgiving herself for making that mistake.
The USPS Office of Inspector General said it is investigating an employee at a Chicago area postal facility who could be involved in thefts reported by Irgang and dozens of other victims.
If you are planning to send a gift card in the mail, keep these things in mind:
- Don’t send them in a regular envelope. It could be damaged in the postal service sorting machine;
- Use a padded envelope instead and put an address sticker on the gift card in case it does come loose;
- Be sure to save the purchase receipt and take down the card and pin number if possible before sending it;
- If it is lost, contact the card issuer to determine your options.