A new scam could make your gift card worthless. It's brand new, but it doesn't mean it hasn't already been spent. Ran Hoth , president and CEO of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau , explains … smart thieves don't have to take the actual gift card in order to steal its value. "A thief can walk into that store and look at the back of that gift card and get the actual gift card number and the 800 number of the store and use that to purchase items online using the gift card that was still located in the store."

So, Hoth says, when you buy that card, it might have a zero balance. He suggests you have new cards scanned upon purchase, to make sure it's worth what you pay for it. Hoth says you should keep your receipt as proof of purchase. Other tips: "Don't buy a gift card if it looks like it's easily accessible to the public. Look for gift cards that are stored behind the counter, or hand written by a store clerk or a store manager." Also, examine the card to make sure it hasn't been tampered with. Hoth warns, gift cards from Internet auction sites or clearinghouses often turn out to be stolen.

Hoth says the BBB is making its members aware of this potential problem. The Better Business Bureau wants to know if you've been scammed, or had other problems with your gift card. Call the office: 800-273-1002.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report (1:24 MP3)

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