The biggest target so far is the nation's largest retailer: Wal-Mart.
We uncovered the problem after tips from local consumers.
Wal-Mart won't say much. A spokesman in Arkansas characterizes it as a "small issue in some pockets of the country."
But police are investigating, and if you use gift cards, you need to know about this.
"You think it's safe to give someone a gift card!" said Tami Kegley, who contacted us after she and her church group chipped in for a $150 gift card at a Wal-Mart in Bonney Lake. Tami had put the purchase on her credit card.
The shopping card, as Wal-Mart calls it, was a gift for a colleague.
"She loaded up her cart and took it up there and they said there was nothing on the card," she said.
The same thing happened to Carol Kent and her husband with a $25 card at the Wal-Mart in Puyallup.
Carol: "She said 'I'm sorry, but there's a zero balance on this.' And we're like, 'What?!' She ran it again and she said, 'No, I'm sorry. It's already been cashed out.' "
Carol's shopping card was purchased in Olympia, and days later, cashed out by a stranger at the Wal-Mart in Chehalis even though Carol still had the card.
"Here's my receipt," Carol points to the shopping card notation at the bottom which reads: "Shop card reception 0.00"
In Tami's case, her receipt shows the $150.00 card was activated at 11:32 in the morning, then cashed out three hours later in a another state!
"At a store in California," Tami explained. "He (the Wal-Mart employee) wasn't sure how it was being done, but he told me it had happened several times through that same store in California."
Wal-Mart acknowledges the scam, but for security reasons will not discuss details.
A corporate spokesman says the company, " is working with law enforcement at the highest levels possible, to rectify the problem and catch the people responsible."
As for making good on the stolen money?
"Well initially he told me that he really couldn't do anything for me," Tami Kegley says of the Wal-Mart employee she dealt with. "He said it was a corporate issue."
But Tami persisted, and got finally got the $150.00. Carol also got her money back.
"And they said they're working on it, and that there's been a couple memos on it throughout Wal-Mart," Carol said.
Wal-Mart won't go into how this is happening, but assures us it has extra security measures in place.
One other national retailer reports an isolated incident of the same scam in Michigan and the employee involved was caught.
Wal-Mart says if you learn your card has been hit, you should have no problem getting your money as long as you have the receipt to verify the transaction. The receipts record the exact date, time and code number of the card transaction, as well as codes showing where the cards were both purchased and redeemed.