Tips to avoid scams targeting gift cards ahead of the holiday shopping season

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- After our Thanksgiving meal and time with family, we know what comes next, pulling out our wallet to officially begin the holiday shopping season.

But, no matter how many times we tell you about these stories, every year scammers get more creative and they're waiting for you to be vulnerable.

The first place you should put your guard up is your email inbox.

"Always go to the website of the company that you're looking at. Don't click on anything from an email. If you get an email go to the site to see if it's legitimate," CEO of Sentree Systems, Kevin Mabry said.

Mabry says the emails are more sophisticated and look real.

The goal is to get malware on your computer and access your data. And gift card lovers beware, thieves are now scratching off the real bar code, taking a picture of it and replacing it with a fake. So, when you go to buy the card they've already used it to make online purchases.

"If it's in the store I personally would ask a teller to get me one from back in the back because they could be tampered with or get one from the actual back of the stack of them because the ones that will be tampered with will be the first ones," Mabry said.

And we've witnessed those big box store data breaches. So, if shopping with small businesses is your way to avoid that now you have to be on the lookout there too.

"Hackers are trying to get malware on smaller clients and smaller mom and pop shops. They're going after them the ones that do not have the chip on your card. If they don't have the chip reader, don't use your card there because they're trying to get malware on those actual devices, the card reader to steal data," Mabry said.

So here are a few extra tips. Cyber security experts suggest using your phone to pay like Apple or Samsung wallet. That way you’re not pulling out your card and you’re paying with an encrypted number from your phone.

Or use a pre-paid card that’s loaded with a set amount of money and not connected to your bank account.