InvestigatorsMatter for Mallory


Thousands in Marriott gift certificates used before traveler could redeem them

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-28 07:08:33-04

BALTIMORE — If you've been holding onto travel funds from canceled trips or past promotions, you may want to double-check their balance. Ginny Hanson, a Baltimore County woman, recently discovered her thousands of dollars in Marriott gift certificates had already been used by someone else.

Hanson had purchased the Marriott e-gift certificates back in May 2020, during a special 20 percent off promotion. She spent half of the $5,000 she had purchased and reserved the rest for Valentine's Day. However, when she went to check the balance on her remaining gift certificates, she found that it was zero.

“I went online and the balance on what I had, which was $2,500, was $0,” said Hanson.

Despite numerous calls to Marriott and the gift card processor, she was unable to resolve the issue. She then contacted WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.

“Matters for Mallory, it got solved in one day! It's like amazing and now they're wonderful to me, they're contacting me,” Hanson said.

Marriott has since issued a statement, stating that they are taking the matter seriously and investigating the situation. However, they did not disclose how the gift certificates were compromised, by whom, or if it was related to any past data breaches.

Hanson said she was told by a customer representative that they were able to track where the certificates were used.

“There was somebody, he used them in New York, and somebody in Thailand,” said Hanson.

In light of this incident, Hanson cautions other travelers to be vigilant with their travel funds. “Check them! Check them immediately and keep checking them. And use them. Give them, use them, do anything. Get rid of them,” she warned.

It's important to remember that while e-gift cards are convenient, they are not without risk. Personal information is required when purchasing them online, and it's up to the company to protect that data. If you have a balance on an e-gift card or regular gift card, treat it like cash, keep the numbers in a secure location, and use a credit card when making the purchase.

To avoid any fraudulent activity, regularly monitor the balance and any transactions on travel funds and gift cards. It's better to use them sooner rather than later, and if any issues arise, contact the company directly for assistance.

Gift card scams continue to be a top complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. About 1 in 4 people who reported losing money to fraud said it involved a gift card. Click here for more information on these scams, how to avoid them, and to report them to the FTC.