ST. CLOUD -- The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office is warning of a gift card scam taking place in St. Cloud.

Each year the department selects a family or two to give a little extra financial help to around the holidays. This year two families were chosen and given Walmart gift cards, but the sheriff’s office says when the families went to use them, they discovered that most of the money had already been spent. Authorities investigated and discovered that the purchases had been made before the department gave out the gift cards.

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The sheriff’s office says someone went into a Walmart store, took a bunch of gift cards, and removed the coating on the backs of them to get the codes. Once he had the codes he entered them into the Walmart pay app, replaced the coating on the back of the cards, and waited for someone else to buy and activate them.

Authorities were able to determine where the card had been used, identified a suspect using video and photos, and executed a search warrant at his residence in St. Cloud. Inside, authorities discovered most of the items bought using the money from the gift card along with tools used to manipulate the gift cards and evidence of a larger scheme.

The case has been passed along to the Stearns County Attorney’s Office for charges. The sheriff’s office also says they are working to get the money spent by the suspect returned to the families.

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