Scammed on Coles Prepaid Mastercard

This may be well known issue, but a warning if not. I purchased a $250 Coles Prepaid Mastercard (yellow packaging) instore today and got scammed. I opened the packaging straight afterwards to use and found the card had been replaced by a blank card cut-out with the partial barcode stuck on to match so there would be alignment with the window on the outside. I returned to Coles and initially, they advise the system wouldn't allow for a refund/return to be processed, and instead I would have to call the Issuer (Heritage Bank) to arrange a block and get my money back, etc. I knew this would be a time consuming process, and may take several months, so thankfully after some discussion I was able to get a refund put onto a returns card. I know the returns card can't be used to purchase gift-cards, tobacco, alcohol, etc, but I was happy with this compromise given the circumstances.

The surprising element of this episode was how well the scammers had removed the original card and repackaged. I had previously also purchased an open and resealed Coles prepaid Mastercard before, but that was under the old purple package which was much more susceptible to tampering. This was however under the current new style introduced in May-22 (i.e. $250 = yellow, $100 = purple, $50 = aqua blue) with part of the actual card viewable via the back window, and all side of the package sealed much better. I am a regular purchaser of this card and did not notice anything unusual about this one from the outside. In hindsight, the only warning flags was probably that there was only 2x $250 cards left on the shelf with no $100 and plenty of $50's. I know given the FlyBuys points promo last week, many Coles I have been to had sold out of the $100 & $250 and not yet restocked. As part of the discussion with the Coles staff, I did grab the other remaining $250 card on shelf and opened it in their presence. As expected, it was also tampered with, and card had been swapped out.

Anyway, my advice to purchasers of these cards is to take extra care. Going forward, I think the safest option is to partially open the package before making payment to avoid the hassle of trying to seek a refund, etc. Hoping this would be ok, given I do have the intention of making the purchase if there is an actual prepaid card inside.

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  • +4

    That's pretty clever

    • -1

      Super intricate - I’ve also never understood the obsession of discounted Cole’s mc.. other than maybe to save a little on a gift to friends in lieu of cash

      Everything ranging from scams like this, to people hiding the high value ones to the average saving for relative inflexibility of use…

  • why do you buy gift cards? to give to someone? why not give cash?

    • +2

      My misso : but cash is so impersonal!

      • +1

        Your misso is my mum?


        • +1

          My 70 year old mum says the same … hmm

        • +1

          I give the cash anyway, and say it's a gift card from the Reserve Bank of Australia.

    • +2

      why do you buy gift cards?

      generally to get instant savings, like you pay $95 AUD for $100 Mastercard prepaid Credit. that's instant $5 savings Or a gamble of $95 if hacked

  • +3

    thanks for sharing

  • +1

    I dont understand. So someone bring that card home replace and return to the store next day.
    Whats the benefit of doing this? The card isnt activated therefore empty, right?

    • +2

      i suppose given the promo it's assumed the scammer checks the day after he puts it back and it should be active.

    • Would've been changed out in store…

    • +2

      The scammers have the details of the activated card after I purchased it (and activated it for them). So now it becomes a race between them to use the value before the Coles staff contact Heritage or Indue(?) to block and invalidate the card and also reimburse Coles.

      • is there a current coles deal for these cards? 10% off?

        also do you mind sharing which coles?

        • 100% off, for the scammers 👌

        • No - no deal on currently.

          I probably can't say which Coles in case it gets the staff in trouble. But it's VIC metro. As mentioned this happened to me once earlier about 2 years ago under the old all purple packaging - that was at a different, but nearby Coles. So maybe it the same person or group.

      • So do you think this is supply chain theft or are people shoplifting un-activated cards, doctoring them and then sneaking them back on to the shelf?

        • +1

          I highly suspect it is the latter (the scammer taking inactivated cards in store and taking the card out, and putting it back).

          Anyhow, my key message is that there are scammers out there capable of repackaging this product at a very high quality that is very hard to identify without opening it up. Maybe the material of the partially exposed card barcode is slightly different on touch, but that may be it. Otherwise, all the seals, etc, seem normal.

    • What benefit could this be to anyone as the store has to activate the card value at point of sale or else it has no value. I have used these cards and not had any problems. The packaging seems tamper proof the way its sealed.

  • +1

    I don't get it. How do the scammers know when you have charged up the card, do they just sit there testing it over and over?

    • -1

      go back to store and stock check

    • Surely they would have an autoscript for that when they get to that level of scam… unless there’s a captcha involved 🤔

      • +1

        unless there’s a captcha involved

        There is a captcha.

    • +2

      Can check it once per day or less. If they have thousands out there, most are given as gifts and therefore aren't reported immediately purchasing/activating. Who knows how long they take to get cancelled anyway.

  • OP can you provide pictures please ?

    • No pics. Once i got my returns card and was no longer out of pocket, the Coles staff took it all back (receipt, blank card, packaging) to follow-up with the card Issuer.

  • +1

    This is getting real scarry by sounds of it now. May be not worth any savings with these instore GC, scams are getting too sophisticated.

    May need to just stick to SB and CR online deals, and occasional GC deals from Amazon, and other TCN or other online retailers deals.

  • Actually if the scammers are able to open and reseal the package at such high quality, maybe they don't need to swap the card out and just record down the details to use. That way, the purchaser doesn't know their card is compromised and wouldn't initiate the blocking the card with Heritage, which if timely, would waste their efforts.

    Secondly, to reproduce the partial barcode, attach it to a blank card, and realign it to the back window so it seems untouched and then scans at the POS would take some time. If they don't do this step, they can capture many more cards in the same time and increase their rate of return.

    • Maybe they prefer to swipe the card in store to avoid leaving an audit trail by using the card online.

    • Possibly just a manufacturing fault?

      The main printer for the generic design didn't print, but the cards were still passed onto the printer which handles the unique barcode, then it was all packaged and sent off to stores.

      But either way, without knowing, you did the right thing of getting your money back, too many unknowns.

      • +1

        Not a manufacturing fault. Was a total blank white card (same size obviously). The partial barcode was printed on a separate strip of paper and stuck on.

        • Do you think it was a completely new (like for like) packaging?

          Or, they took the original packaging, somehow managed to extract the non-activated card inside out with no damage to the existing packaging, and then place the blank plastic with a perfectly aligned glued-on barcode, and re-seal the whole thing up?

          I remember every time I took out the yellow coloured $250 MC card, I ended up damaging the package, even if I was doing it very carefully.

          • @DoctorCalculon: Hacking doesn't seem that hard I tried to see whether I could do something lol. You need two donor packaging so you can damage one of each side and carefully cut down the glued sizes to not crease on either sides. All these talk about fancy ways to do why didn't you think using two packaging to frankenstein a tamped card?

            The blank can just been made cheaply if you have a setup from aliexpress.

    • Don't they need a pin too? I wouldn't think they'd risk getting caught on camera tampering with the cards.

  • +4

    This level of scam off of the newer-more-secured packaging is unheard of in my experience, that’s some ninja shyt man. Thanks for letting us know, i’ll be definitely more careful next time and probably partial open the cards as suggested, while using it up ASAP straight to the ATO.

  • +2

    Yikes. That's some high level ingenuity right there. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • +4

    You say

    to arrange a block and get my money back, etc. I knew this would be a time consuming process, and may take several months, so thankfully after some discussion I was able to get a refund put onto a returns card. I know the returns card can't be used to purchase gift-cards, tobacco, alcohol, etc, but I was happy with this compromise given the circumstances.

    A simple phone call would block the card. Which you should do right away. That way the scammer doesnt get the money. Yes getting the money back may take some longer time. Hopefully you or the staff did that, as only when the activation process started could the scammer get any value. If it gets shut down quickly then there is no advantage

    You say that this has happened before 2 years ago.

    1. Dont shop at Supermarkets in that area for these cards. Scammers are present.
    2. Open all card packaging at the register/service desk after payment is made in front of staff before leaving the register. Painful but its in your interest.

    You arent getting staff into trouble, by advising where your purchased these. You say Vic Metro that helps but only a slight amount. I doubt if the scammer(s) have just scammed one card.

    • With a blank card there'd be no card number for the call centre to use to block the card, unless they can go off the number on the packaging.

    • This was on a Saturday night and I had to meet family & friends for a dinner, so my first objective to just to lock in the recovery value for myself (even if it was $257 on a Coles returns that can only be used for groceries). Once they gave me the returns card, they did say they would take the packaging out the back and sort it out (e.g. call Heritage Bank, etc). I did suggest this be done ASAP to block the card, and since Coles' till was out of balance given they had issued me a returns card without formally processing a refund.

      On (1), both these Coles are local to me. Plus, the previous occurrence was about 2 years ago under the old packaging. Never had an issue since with the new packaging so my awareness was lower.

      On (2), they need to be opened/checked before payment. After payment/activation, even if you are standing at the registrar, the remedy process is complicated as in my case.

      • I agree point2, maybe a litle complicated, but instantly they have to recognise that the fault isnt yours, whereas coming back a few hours or even minutes after you have left their sight makes the issue even more onerous

      • On (2), they need to be opened/checked before payment.

        Some staff members won't let you do this until after you pay for them.

      • The new packaging is really hard to open without damaging it. Without photo it's hard to tell. Are you sure the packaging doesn't show sign of tampering?

  • OP you say the waning signs is 2 on the shelf . Surely if I was a Scammer I would set up day 1 and get the rush .
    Maybe there aren't many out there as the Scammer has to be an Ameteur .
    I'd have eyes on the purchase to use immediately, Maybe Coles has the Scammer on their surveillance. They should have the footage of the placement.
    Although if a big scale was placed. Regular checking if the cards have been activated.

  • -3

    Gotta hand it to the scammer, that’s a pretty legit scam.

  • +1

    Gotta hand it to Coles for leaving the cards prone to tampering.

    Imagine if they stocked cigarettes on the same rack.

    • Yea and face the wrath of ozbargainers who want to hide them in freezers or behind the cornflakes 🤑

  • Coles have fixed this now. Cards are not on display and only available from Service Desk where you get cards and also pay at same time.


    Slightly different experience but my card was sealed (at least I did not notice anything amiss).

    Bought several cards during the June 2022 10% discount in VIC.
    Opened a $100 card (my last one) last week. Tried to make a payment to my internet service provider but failed through several attempt.
    Checked available balance and only $10.07 left. Several payments made to UPLIVE ( and Sango.

    These payments were hacked since payments were made in Feb 2023. I only opened the card packaging in April 23.

    Is this common, prepaid cards hacking?
    Any idea what is Sango?


    • +2

      Sorry to hear, but best to use the cards ASAP moving forward. Even if you prepay bills to be ahead, worst case is to ask for a refund for the additional payments made.

    • +1

      Same deal. Recently opened up my $100 card from the June 2022 sale to check the balance. There were several payments to TikTok at the start of this year. I have contacted the number on the card and they have told me they'll send me a form to complete and return. Their team will then investigate and get back to me with an outcome.

      Crazy. Didn't think it would happen to me. Must be really common. I don't think I'll be buying these cards ever again.

      • +1

        You must be a supreme optimist.

    • Same here. Bought a bunch of $250 cards 10 days ago to use them to pay off my HECS and have came across the first scammed card. Same deal - package did not appear to be tampered with. Do you know if a forum post exists on Ozbargain to discuss the refund process and best ways to ensure a refund is achieved?

  • Sorry to hear. Hope you will be refunded soon

    Could it be this:

    Uplive has a Singaporean connection and Sango is Singaporean

  • +1

    Oh, wow, so these people must be checking these cards every day to see if someone buys it and loads value into them. Very sneaky.

    • +3

      Probably got a bot doing the probing.

      • Yea, most likely.

        These people can be caught, just need to trace the transactions, but will the bank or the Police do anything about it? Its probably in the too hard basket

  • So how do they get the money by paying these companies? From what i gathered, the companies are very random. Do the scammers own these companies?

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