Should I run toward — or away from — this gift card case?

By | March 6th, 2016

The question from Sooraj Chokkalingam had a familiar ring to it. There were gift cards that had suddenly lost their value. There were hundreds of dollars at stake. I was his last hope.

If you think you’ve heard it all before, it’s probably because you have. For better or worse, this site has developed a subspecialty in recovering lost gift card balances lately.

For example:

And yet, whenever our team receives an email like Chokkalingam’s, we wonder: Who are we really helping when we get involved in a case like this?

As a matter of fact, should we even get involved?

Chokkalingam says he purchased three eBay digital gift cards each worth $200 from Target.com, which is an authorized retailer for selling eBay gift cards.

“When I tried to use those digital gift card redemption codes on eBay.com on Feb. 10, they show no balance,” he says. “I contacted eBay gift card customer service, which is apparently handled by PayPal. They confirmed all the gift cards are linked to a PayPal account owned by a different individual. So it is obvious someone stole my gift cards, possibly from the eBay-PayPal gift card system, and eBay and PayPal have all the details about the individual who did it because they know the PayPal account used.”


The eBay gift card terms and conditions promises it will replace stolen gift cards with proof of purchase and a gift card number, which Chokkalingam has already sent Target.

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He wants someone to replace $600 worth of lost gift cards.

“But I am not getting any help from eBay, PayPal or Target,” he says.

So … could I jump in?

My first thought was, “Why yes!” No one should be able to keep $600 of someone else’s gift cards.

But then I started to wonder about the case. Almost all of the gift card cases we receive involve fraud, or allegations of fraud. I’m not saying this one does, but this case raises some questions (as indeed they all do).

✓ Why would someone buy $600 of eBay gift cards from Target?

✓ How can the money just disappear? If it does, why doesn’t the company conduct an investigation and report the findings?

✓ Why would eBay, Target and PayPal go into radio silence?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still in full-on “Scrappy” mode.

But experience has taught me that there must be more to this story. There just has to be. I’m afraid that the deeper I dig, the more evident it might become that I shouldn’t be anywhere near it.

And yet, how will I know if I never start digging?

What would you do?

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