I attended FTU Seattle two weekends ago (I know, this post is late) and while I was there as a speaker, I learned a few things that have made me reconsider how I approach manufactured spending. Or, more accurately, how much I share with people. A year ago I briefly touched on the subject of safety while churning gift cards. At the time, I sort of dismissed possible safety issues because I wasn’t sharing my location…unless someone asked.
When I got into this hobby in the midst of the Vanilla Reload frenzy, a fellow blogger shared ms-friendly CVS locations with me. Without her tip, I probably would have given up on gift card churning. I don’t mind paying it forward. But after what I heard, I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to share ms hotspots with other people.
During the event, I heard rumblings of robberies. These rumors were partly confirmed by Mike Graziano, who told me about a guy who was robbed of $30,000 worth of money orders in the parking lot of a US Post Office. Another person told me about a guy who got robbed outside of a Simon Mall. All of this makes me think twice about sharing where I buy and liquidate gift cards.
When I asked my local Walmart cashier the other day whether their parking lot had any cameras, she told me they did. However, an 80 year-old woman was robbed at gunpoint at a nearby ATM a few weeks ago. In broad daylight. Some criminals obviously aren’t deterred by cameras catching them in the act. She did kindly offer to walk me to my car going forward, but unless she’s going out there armed, I don’t know that it would make a difference.
At FTU, someone mentioned “being aware of your surroundings” but what does that even mean? Yes, I pay attention to the people nearby. But I can’t tell a potential criminal apart form a normal Walmart shopper (no shade intended). I’ll try to make sure no one is following me. The parking lot is usually packed with people and I always park close to the entrance, so that helps. But more importantly, I need to make sure I’m not visiting these stores at the same exact time/day or sharing my location with others.
Another thing we should all be doing is keeping our receipts separate from our money orders. That way, if someone does manage to snag that Simon Mall plastic bag, at least you have the receipts. A few years ago, my aunt was in a Walmart parking lot, loading her bags in the car. Someone stole her purse from the cart, which included a $300 money order she had purchased with a debit card.
She walked back in the store to report it and then alerted her bank. Eventually, she got the funds back, but I don’t know if it was by her bank or Walmart. I also don’t know if that would be possible on a ~$10,000 purchase broken up into five transactions and 20 Visa gift cards. But regardless, having proof of purchase can only help.
Anyway, not to turn this into a true crime piece post, but we should all be more careful when buying or liquidating gift cards. People have been robbed in the process and it makes sense because we’re easy targets. Be careful, put your personal safety above all else and have a back up plan in case something does happen.
Me? I think I’m going to hold off on sharing ms hotspots with people I don’t know. I know that’s going to be disappointing to some , but there are ill-intentioned people out there who could use that information to target me as well as other MS’ers who regularly go to those places.
What are you doing to stay safe while carrying around large amounts of gift cards and money orders?