Local Police Seize Over 4K Tampered Gift Cards

gift cards
Gift card | Image by Songsak rohprasit/Getty Images

Plano police have made considerable headway against a gift card draining scheme, removing over 4,100 unsealed gift cards from stores this month.

A media advisory from the Plano Police Department (PPD) announced on Wednesday that a joint operation between its Forgery Unit, the U.S. Secret Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had led to the massive seizure and arrest of two suspects in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

PPD seized thousands of gift cards from companies such as Apple, Foot Locker, Amazon, and Sephora.

The cards had been tampered with by scammers looking to rob consumers of more than $649,000. They do this by opening gift cards, stealing their card numbers and PIN codes, resealing them, and then placing them back on the shelf. When unsuspecting shoppers purchase such a gift card, they will find that the balance has already been drained before they can use it.

As previously covered in The Dallas Express, gift card balance scams have risen considerably over the past year, with a 50% increase recorded by the Better Business Bureau between 2022 and 2023. Consumers who get scammed by gift card drainers often have a difficult time recovering their lost funds.

Aided by local retailers, such as Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS, investigators allegedly spotted 42-year-old Xiaohong Zhang and 33-year-old Xiongling Chen meddling with gift cards and arrested them on charges of unlawful use of a criminal instrument.

Zhang was still in custody as of the publication date and was given a bond amount of $50,000. There is no up-to-date information available on her alleged conspirator, Chen. Both suspects reside in California, per Fox 4 KDFW.

PPD urged shoppers to be “vigilant when purchasing gift cards and to report any suspicious activity to the authorities,” per the City of Plano. The city further advised consumers to inspect gift cards for any signs of tampering before buying them and keep receipts as proof of purchase.

Anyone with information about this or other gift card scams may call the tip line at 972-941-5555.

In Dallas, property crime has been the most common criminal offense, with 18,024 reports logged as of April 17, according to the City’s crime analytics dashboard. A total of 641 of these crimes have been fraud-related. Council districts 6, 2, and 14 have been the hottest spots for such offenses, logging 85, 77, and 60 reports, respectively, in 2024.

The Dallas Police Department has been critically understaffed in recent years, which has dampened its efforts to fight crime. Approximately 3,000 DPD officers are fielded, whereas a City report called for closer to 4,000 officers are needed to ensure public safety.

Meanwhile, the Dallas City Council allocated just $654 million to DPD this fiscal year, far lower funding than that for police departments in other high-crime jurisdictions, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

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