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Elk Grove Citizen

Gift Card Scam and Arrest

Dec 14, 2023 10:32AM ● By Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office News Release

Over 5,000 gift cards were found in Ningning Sun’s possession. Photo courtesy of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office


SACRAMENTO COUNTY, CA (MPG) - During our recent retail theft Operation Bad Elf, detectives observed an individual, later identified as Ningning Sun, acting suspiciously near the gift cards in the payment aisles in a Sacramento Target store. Detectives observed him placing all the gift cards on a rack inside his jacket, then replacing the gift cards with another set of seemingly identical ones. After Sun was stopped trying to exit the store with the stolen gift cards, detectives discovered over 5000 gift cards from Target and Apple in his possession.

Their investigation revealed Sun was part of a scam that tampered with gift cards, scanned the bar code, and stole money from the gift card as money was loaded on them. Victims are completely unaware it is happening, and the money is often siphoned to an off-shore account within seconds. Their investigation revealed that the operation spanned across California and several regions nationwide.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office urges residents to be cautious when purchasing physical gift cards from any retailer. Be observant of any signs of tampering, especially scuff marks or scratches near the bar code on the back of the card. These operations are very sophisticated, and modifications to the gift cards are often virtually undetectable, even to the trained eye. Detectives suspect Sun has done this at many stores and are requesting the public’s help to potentially link him to other crimes. 

This investigation is still ongoing, and detectives are asking anyone with information about this incident to contact the Sheriff’s Office at (916) 874-5115 or Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers at (916) 443-HELP (4357).  Tips leading to additional charges are eligible for a CASH reward of up to $1000, and tipsters remain anonymous.  Tips are paid in cash, and you are never asked for identification. Contact Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers at (916) 443-HELP (4357), 1-800-AA-CRIME, or **TIPS.  Use the “P3 TIPS” app or online at  Tip information may also be left anonymously at or by calling (916) 874-TIPS (8477).