The Vanilla Visa Card Scam

Updated on January 8, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of 2, and a published sci-fi and horror author.

Introduction

The Vanilla Visa gift card is a scam with many different components. It is sold as a gift card, though many of these Vanilla cards are reloadable debit cards as well. What are the problems with this prepaid gift card?

The Vanilla Visa Card’s Problems

When you buy these cards and activate them at the register, you can’t immediately use them online. You have to wait at least 24 hours before you can register them online, which must be done before you can use them for online purchases with any other site. Even if the website sees the purchased amount for the activated gift card on the website, you still cannot register it and use it online at that time.

For the first full day, any attempt to register it by entering in my zip code and trying to proceed was denied. This wasn’t the only problem with the website. I received a warning that the Vanilla Visa website has a broken HTTPS, as well as problems with its SHA-1 Certificate. The TLS connection was secure according to my browser. This is another reason why I called customer service as soon as I was able to find a phone number for their customer service department – and the difficulty of getting a good phone number to reach Vanilla Visa support (only shown after multiple failed attempts to associate a zip code with it) is a strike against this Visa gift card.

I was never able to register my gift cards online through Vanilla’s website and had to call the Vanilla Visa phone number at 1-800-571-1376 to get a zip code associated with it. And after I had my zip code associated with it per my conversation with customer service – it still didn’t work that day or the next.

The Vanilla Visa website is insecure. If the site asks you for personally identifiable information, DO NOT give it.
The Vanilla Visa website is insecure. If the site asks you for personally identifiable information, DO NOT give it. | Source

Other Problems with Vanilla Visa

The card’s instructions say vendors may put a 24 hour hold on money, but there is no such warning in the instructions or the vendor website stating there is a card registration itself. In fact, the website’s “important things to know” says you can use the Vanilla Visa card immediately after purchase. Not true online, though I don’t know if this is true in an in person transaction, though given the poor customer service and general reputation, I doubt it.

If the Vanilla Visa gift card is used fraudulently, Vanilla Visa has a bad reputation for not helping people even after you provide a lot of information. There are also reports that they demand copies of driver’s license pictures and other information that puts the victim at risk for identity theft. And you don’t want to put this information into their site since it is insecure.

The card states in 2016 only to be used in the United States, but they previously sold them internationally without this warning. The cards could no longer be used internationally after mid-2012. This information is clearly stated on their customer service recordings and in small text on the gift card packaging.

After buying two separate Vanilla Visa gift cards at the same time from the same store and a dozen attempts, I was never able to get a zip code associated with them to actually use them online as was my intent when they were purchased. I never tried to use these gift cards as debit cards with a vendor.

Comparison to American Express Gift Card

The American Express gift card I purchased after giving up on the Vanilla Visa had the same 5.95 fee to activate as the Vanilla Visa gift card for a $25 balance.

It takes 30 minutes to activate after purchase. As soon as it activates, you can use it for purchases including online purchases. I was able to use the American Express gift card I bought the same day I bought it, whereas after three days of trying to use Vanilla Visa cards, I gave up and bought the American Express.

You can use any zip code, including your home zip code, for the purchase without calling a phone number or giving away personal information.

Summary

Research your Visa gift card options before you buy, because some of them are usable online or in person within hours of purchase - and don't buy a Vanilla Visa gift card.

Questions & Answers

  • My boyfriend moved to New York and said he wants to send me money but told me I have to buy a vanilla card and I have to add $40 to it for him to be able to send me money, is this true? $40 is a weird number.

    He can send you money via money transfer services like Western Union, money orders through the post office, money sent via apps and banking websites. He could mail you a check. Yes, this is weird on many accounts.

  • I had bought a vanilla gift card from a CVS pharmacy store of $25 but when I went home I tried buying something online but it didn't let me, so I waited for 24 hrs to try again but it still didn't let me. Then I checked my transactions, and it says I have $0 in my card and that the money had gone to a PayPal account. What do I do?

    It sounds like someone has already used the card. You can't really do anything about it, since the issuing company doesn't care. You can try to print the records and go back to CVS to beg for a refund, assuming the transaction log shows that the transfer to Paypal happened before you bought the card. If the transfer is listed as happening after you bought the card, they'll say you already moved the money and there is nothing to do.

  • My mom told me to go buy a Vanilla Visa card and call her once I got it because she was going to transfer money to it for me. Ok, so she's not going to scam me, but how does that work?

    It is possible to transfer money to it at the register. Some brands like Amazon let you transfer money like an allowance.

  • I have received a Cashiers Check for $ 1,815, and a request for me to buy $ 1,500 on One Vanilla gift cards. The difference of $300 is a payment for surveying the shop where I buy the gift cards. I do not want to accept this offer so what should I do with the check?

    This is a scam. This is fraud. Do NOT cash that check.

    They want you to put real money on a gift card and send it to them. The check is either fake outright, so you lose your real money when you send it to them, or they are laundering drug money, and you're guilty by association for aiding them.

    You can take the check to the police and report their request and their information. Or you can take it to your local bank, NOT cash it, report the fraud and let them track it down.

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