CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill to prevent the selling of gift cards in pawn shops is moving through the House of Delegates.

Police say that the sale of gift cards has become an issue because people steal from department stores such as Macy’s, return the stolen items for a gift card, and then sell that gift card at a local pawn shop for 50 percent of the value.

Pawn shops, in turn, receive 80 percent of the gift card’s value.

“In our recent opioid epidemic that we’re experiencing in West Virginia, one of the main mediums of generating money for your addiction is through shoplifting and gift cards,” said Barboursville Police Chief Mike Coffey. “The other would be prostitution, the sale of drugs and regular theft.”

Last year, Macy’s alone lost $300,000 from gift cards and other incidents of shoplifting, Coffey said. He said that the pawn shops themselves are far from innocent.

“I don’t believe that they’re conspiring with these people. But I believe that if somebody comes to your store with $3,000 worth of gift cards in one day from Macy’s, you should be a little suspicious,” he said describing a recent incident.

Opponents of the bill pointed out that the legislation would prevent legitimate transactions of people selling off gift cards. Coffey thought that majority of such transactions are done so illegally.

When challenged by Del. Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio) that not all pawn shop gift card trade-ins are illegal, Coffey responded “I would say most are.”

The bill could be taken up for further consideration in the House this week.

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