Gift card making some nervous

December 19, 2008 4:47:28 PM PST
Gift cards are a popular present this time of year, but as you know not all of them are created equally.From user fees to expiration dates, your money can disappear quickly. Now there's another kind of card that is making recipients a little nervous.

I can't tell you how many times we have told you to never give out your personal information, so when a gift card asks for Social Security numbers and drivers license numbers, it got our attention.

Before you stuff a stocking with gift cards this year, there's something you should know about one particular kind of gift card. This card, which has the Visa logo and can be loaded with any amount of money you wish, requires the user to do more than pick out a nice gift.

You'll have to register before using it and registration requires you to give up your name, date of birth, Social Security number, mailing address, cell number and provider as well as your home phone number.

"Giving out all that personal information, I don't think that's a good idea," said consumer Wanda Horace.

According to Green Dot, the company that backs the card in question, the federal government requires all that information to help federal officials fight fraud and terrorism. Even with the federal regulations, consumers say that personal information is too much to give out.

"If it involves your Social Security number that is probably something I do not want to do," said consumer Stephanie Shill.

Green Dot cards are sold at major retail chains all over town. They've been around for years, and so have the rules that require card users to give up all that information. Now typically consumers are told to never give their Social Security number to anyone, but in this case, it's not a problem according to Dan Parsons of the Houston Better Business Bureau.

"Green Dot has been around a long time doing this," he said. "These guys are not going to be down in the gutter dealing with bad people."

Not all gift cards ask for personal information. Visa and American Express gift cards that have preset dollar amounts only require a signature to let the shopping begin. The Green Dot cards allow users to place any amount they wish on the card and that's why the federal government wants to know who is buying them.

"It is not designed as a gift item, that's the real crux of it," Parsons said.

Ok, so if you get a gift card that requires you to give up all that personal information, and you decide you do not want to do that, you can decline and the money will be returned to the person who bought the card.

Keep in mind the gift cards with preset amounts cost less than the Green Dot card that allows you to place a specific dollar amount on the card.

The cards that allow you set your own limit on them have all kinds of fees, even fees to check the balance on the phone. The cards with preset limits do have fees, but fewer of them.

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