Grinchy fraudsters are wiping out holiday gift cards before the intended recipients can even get to the mall and go wild buying beer pong supplies at Spencer Gifts. In one of his Sunday Special press conferences, Senator Schumer surfaced at Greeley Square and West 33rd Street to warn shoppers about about the devious scam.

Crooks are reportedly targeting stores where gift cards are sold off the rack. While the activation numbers on the unprotected cards are concealed by a silver scratch-off strip, fraudsters are using inexpensive mag-strip scanners to read the gift card serial numbers. After waiting a few days, they call the gift card phone number to find out how much of a balance is left on the card. Once they determine the card is activated, they go shopping online—with your Christmas money.

As Scambusters notes, "Most of these systems don't require a password, so it is very easy for the scammer to do this. Other times the scammer is able to steal the PIN at the same time as the gift card number." Yesterday, Schumer called upon the National Retail Federation and the Retail Gift Card Association to require better protective packaging for gift cards, and to only sell them behind the counter.

"The system all too many stores use now is a free buffet for scammers and crooks that can leave unsuspecting victims with a valueless piece of plastic by Christmas Day," warned the Senator. Of course, this scam also presents an interesting opportunity for budget-minded gift givers: all you do is put the bare minimum amount on a gift card, tell the recipient it's worth, say, $200, and then blame the discrepancy on these sinister card scammers! It's the thought that counts.