Thousands of dollars on newly issued gift cards mysteriously go missing

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BALTIMORE — A Hanover business owner’s gift to his workers came up short after he learned some of the gift cards he handed out had been emptied.

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Ben Sudano of Sudano’s Produce rewards his workers and vendors with gift cards.

“These are just to say hey, you did a great job. Here’s a gift card,” said Sudano.

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Over the last few years, Sudano has purchased tens of thousands of dollars in American Express gift cards, but his nice gesture recently backfired.

“In the last couple of months, people, we were giving them gift cards and they were coming back to us saying they had been used,” said Erin Sudano, collections manager at Sudano’s Produce.

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Sudano started looking into how many of these cards had been compromised.

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“I have 15 cards that have been compromised. And that’s just one batch and we have other batches that we need to go through,” said Erin Sudano.

Her investigation has revealed 30 gift cards with missing funds.

“This one was valued at $250. I was able to, right before Christmas, to go online to find out the transaction history,” said Sudano. “PayPal, PayPal, California, a lot of online stuff.”

Of the $7,900 cumulative balance, over $6,700 has already been spent and the majority of these cards were untouched.

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“They’re kept in a safe, they’re kept in their own individual sealed envelopes, so there’s no way that anyone could’ve tampered with or touched the cards,” said Erin Sudano.

But for the cards they did hand out, it’s created an issue with trust and morale.

“We embarrassed a few of our employees by them thinking they had the money on the card and then they don’t,” said Ben Sudano. “And when you promise them something, you have to deliver on your promise.”

Erin Sudano’s first call was to American Express. She bought the cards directly through their website.

“So, they put me through to a supervisor and one supervisor said I can’t help you with any gift cards after 2018, let me put you in touch with another supervisor. So, it was just kind of on hold forever and kind of being tossed back and forth to the customer service reps,” she said.

Sudano then emailed WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii. Sofastaii contacted American Express, who put her in touch with InComm Payments, a separate company that serves as the program manager and processor of American Express gift cards.

In an email, a spokesperson wrote:

“InComm Payments and American Express take concerns from cardholders very seriously, and we recognize the frustration that Ms. Sudano and her company have experienced. While our policy and privacy restrictions prevent us from commenting on individual customer situations, we can share that we have been in contact with her to explain the status of her case.

Fraud prevention is a top priority. We do not disclose the tactics that fraudsters use in order to prevent copycat behavior, but our dedicated fraud teams are constantly monitoring for new and emerging threats to develop advanced methods for protecting cardholders. We review cases and consult with our merchant partners to fine-tune fraud prevention strategies. We are also constantly working to develop new methods and techniques that mitigate the risk of potential fraud.”
– Statement from InComm Payments and American Express

Ben Sudano wants the cards replaced, but he says he’ll also need reassurance that whatever happened to these cards doesn’t happen again.

“There’s no way you can trust them unless they can do something about it,” he said. “So, they should automatically call back and say we’ll help you no matter what. There’s no business that’s too small or too big.”

Sudano’s Produce is expecting an update within 30 days on the status of their replacement cards.

In the meantime, InComm Payments recommends consumers take the following actions to protect their gift card balances:
• Inspect a gift card’s packaging prior to purchase for signs of tampering, such as slits along the seams, glue residue or color distortion
• Regularly monitor for transactions by reviewing the account balance on their product’s official website, which is printed on the back of their card

If you need assistance with a gift card issued by InComm Payments, click here.





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