HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gift cards have been the most popular present for 14 years in a row, according to the Better Business Bureau. They are flexible, easy-to-mail and give the recipient freedom of choice but that freedom is gone if a scammer already has the numbers to your gift card.

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“Thieves are known to remove those gift cards from that display rack and record the numbers associated with the card,” said Roseann Freitas, BBB Hawaii marketplace manager. “So really look at that activation pin, make sure it doesn’t look like somebody had scraped part of that number off.”

Do not buy a gift card if the packaging has tears or wrinkles. It could mean a scammer already has the pin and is just waiting for your money to activate it. Gift cards can be purchased online, but the BBB recommends to stay away from third-parties and random links.

“The key is to make sure you’re on that providers website. So instead of clicking to a link, just go directly to their website in your browser because it’s going to be a safer way to shop on their website,” Freitas said.

Other tips for buying gift cards as a present include not using any random web service to check the balance. Legit companies often have ways to verify your dollar amount, whether it is instore or on their website. Also, treat gift cards as cash. Losing a $100 gift card is the same as losing a $100 bill.

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BBB Hawaii’s final advice to consumers looking to get a gift card as a present in 2021:

“And if you can support a local business through a gift card, you probably want to start there first to support our local economy,” Freitas said.