LAKELAND, Fla. (CBS Local) — Check the balances on those gift cards you received during the holiday season as they could be worthless.

Julian Cox of Lakeland, Florida, says he spent $1,100 on Amazon gift cards for children and grandchildren for Christmas only to find out each card was worthless.

“I had nothing to send my kids or grandkids,” Cox told WFLA. “And I was home alone because my wife passed. It has not been a good Christmas.”

Cox said he bought the gift cards at two different retailers, Walgreens and Harveys Supermarkets. But it turns out the cards were stolen before he ever had a chance to give them as gifts.

Experts say gift card fraud is rampant. Scammers remove gift cards from displays at stores and use a skimmer to read the card’s magnetic strip.

Cards with a scratch-off code can also be compromised. Fraudsters just scratch off the PIN and cover it back up with a replacement sticker. When consumers add value to the card, the crooks grab the money before it can be spent.

Cox, a private security guard, said he contacted both retailers and Amazon, but they offered no help.

“Amazon says they can’t do anything because I got them at a retailer. The retailer says they can’t do anything because they are Amazon cards and they give no refund on them,” Cox said.

WFLA said it contacted Amazon and Walgreens but calls were not returned. A representative from Harveys said the company will investigate.

“Don’t buy gift cards,” said Cox. “You’re taking a chance if you buy gift cards.”