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$8 billion in gift cards went unclaimed in 2006

Consumer Reports finds billions of dollars in gift cards go unspent and announces an education campaign with full-page New York Times ad.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Consumer Reports announced Monday that it is launching a new public education campaign aimed at creating awareness of the pitfalls associated with gift cards.

The consumer advocacy group said in a written statement that the campaign will officially begin Tuesday with a full-page ad in the New York Times.

The ad, according to the statement, will read: "Dear Shopper, Last year, shoppers like you were out $8 billion because of unused, lost, or expired gift cards. Easy money for retailers. Lost money for you. Yours truly, Consumer Reports."

In addition to the ad, the campaign will launch a "holiday shopping hub" webpage that will provide tips on how to avoid gift card problems and allow users to share stories of gift card woe.

The group also released survey results that found 62 percent of consumers are planning to buy gift cards this season. Last year, the survey said, 27 percent of those who received a gift card never used them.

The majority of respondents said that they did not have the time to redeem the cards. Not finding anything they wanted was another popular excuse given by respondents. Nearly a third said they forgot about their cards.

Consumer Reports advises shoppers to be wary of bank cards, which tend to have higher fees and restrictions than other types of gift cards.

They also recommend checking the merchant's prices to make sure that the amount of the card you purchase will be enough for the recipient to buy something without having to supplement their own money.

Other tips to help steer clear of gift card headaches include: registering the card, use the card quickly, especially if the card has an expiration date or monthly maintenance fee and, finally, spend the entire amount of the card.  To top of page

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