Restaurant gift certificate redeemed before I used it?!
March 26, 2016 2:07 PM   Subscribe

My sisters got me a $100 gift certificate to a nice restaurant here a few months ago (think really nice steak and seafood, there are a couple others elsewhere in the country; I'm in California). They bought it online, emailed me the link, etc. we finally use it last, go to pay, and are told that the balance is $0 and the certificate was already used approximately 6 days after I received it!!

We have never used it. Last night was our first time at that restaurant. They would not honor it, saying they didn't understand what had happened but the balance was $0, as someone had already redeemed it. I was upset--not rude, but just like incredulous because it seemed that they thought we were running some scam. But, more importantly, upset that my sisters used their $ on someone else's meal. Now we are waiting for the manager to talk to corporate to see if they can find out who used it and if there's some way to rectify it. Wondering 1) how did this happen and 2) anything else I can do to get that $ back (for my sisters' sake, honestly). Also I changed my email password. Not sure If someone got in there somehow, though there's no record of unusual log-ins Any advice or insight is very appreciated.
posted by namemeansgazelle to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
One thing - is it possible that your sisters sent you the wrong certificate? Like if they bought a bunch around the holidays to email out as presents they could have sent one out twice by mistake.
posted by oneear at 2:13 PM on March 26, 2016

Was it a card? There's a way the numbers on the back of the card can be used on-line, which I find difficult to understand if it's a restaurant. I'D be calling corporate and raising all kinds of hell behind it.

I'm pretty sure they'll replace the card for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:15 PM on March 26, 2016

Response by poster: Ruthless Bunny: it was a card, but it was one I printed out. And had a unique number on it.

And onnear--they definitely sent me the right card. All restaurant could tell me it that it was redeemed on a certain date in Feb

Thank you!!
posted by namemeansgazelle at 2:21 PM on March 26, 2016

Have you talked to your sisters about how they bought the gift card? There are many websites where you can buy/exchange/sell gift certificates and if they bought it this way--especially because it was a online code/certificate, not a pre-printed plastic physical card-- they might have been scammed from the get-go. Or if they bought it in person at another location of the restaurant, perhaps an unscrupulous employee copied the number as they bought it?
posted by holyrood at 2:31 PM on March 26, 2016 [8 favorites]

Just brainstorming here. I'm not sure of the likelihood that this is the answer vs other ways the gift card could've been used, but...

Does your email provider use SSL by default? Do you have 2FA (two factor authentication) turned on? If no to the two previous, have you ever checked your email on an unsecured wireless network (coffee shop, airplane)? Someone could've gotten into your email address and stolen it there. Also, there's the possibility your sister's email got hacked and they pulled the link from her account, or even on the company's end.

...Although it seems a weird coincidence this would've happened within a span of six days from when you received it.
posted by bluecore at 2:54 PM on March 26, 2016

Gift card fraud is a huge thing, and there are many ways it happens. The scams I'm most familiar with involve physical cards (which are very often compromised before you even buy them), but there are ways it can happen with electronic gift cards too. If you Google "gift card fraud" you'll find tons of stuff. For example:

But just for the record, since some people seem to be thinking about it the other way: electronic gift cards tend to be more secure than plastic ones, especially the ones you buy from the racks in grocery stores and convenience stores. I personally will not buy gift cards from those racks.

I don't know the specifics of what happened here, and maybe it's something else, but fraud is rampant so I tend to believe something along those lines happened rather than an innocent explanation like the giver sending the wrong card.
posted by primethyme at 3:31 PM on March 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

"bought it online" can be bad news. There are lots of scammers out there who will sell gift cards that are cloned, and what they're hoping for is to get into the situation where they get to keep the money because the card was valid for a short while, probably long enough for the gift-giver to call and "verify funds."

Unfortunately, many consumers are not savvy enough to recognize the difference between a scam e-mail or scam website selling things like gift cards, and the real company selling things directly. You may wish to have your sisters review their credit card statement or other bank statement to review the company that actually charged them for the gift cards. If it was not the company that you would have expected, have them initiate a chargeback immediately. You may be able to Google that merchant for additional information to see if others have experienced issues.
posted by jgreco at 3:33 PM on March 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

If she bought it from anything other than directly from the chain, I would suspect that it was a stolen gift card in the first place. If she bought it from them, I would recommend that both of you check your e-mail for anything else that might be worth stealing and see if anything else has been compromised.
posted by Candleman at 4:02 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Did you print it at work or some other "public" printer? In my small office, there have been a number of instances where an unscrupulous person could have easily intercepted an interesting print job, photocopied the print for later use, and left the original in the stack of unclaimed print jobs. Just an idea.
posted by mean square error at 6:13 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

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