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Don’t Fall for Online Gift Card Scams

By December 21, 2022January 10th, 2024No Comments

The holiday season is often busy with travelling, shopping and parties- all things that can keep you distracted, making you an easier target for scammers.

Especially during the hectic holiday season, cybercriminals are working hard to steal your money and personal information.

One of our 12 Cyber Scams of Christmas is online gift cards.  This is an easy way for scammers to gain access to your information.  They will send out fake emails asking for your info with the promise to provide a gift card to a popular store like Starbucks or Amazon.

Sounds great right?  Nothing is free and this scam comes with a price. Once you share your personal information, many of these scammers then work to steal your identity and this can lead to a whole lot of other issues.

Online Gift Card Scams

Here are five of the most common threats to look out for:

Demanding Payment

In this scam, the criminals impersonate an official from the governmenta utility provider, or another organization. They’ll usually threaten their victims, perhaps by claiming they’re owed unpaid taxes or outstanding bill payments and stress the urgency of payment. This is classic social engineering designed to force the victims into hurrying their decision-making.

It usually arrives in the form of a phishing email, or text, or even a phone call (known as “vishing”). Payment is required by gift card, with cyber criminals usually specifying the type of card they want to be used for the payment. This is a huge red flag! No real business or government will require payment via gift card.

Your Balance is stolen by Bots

In this scam, the attackers go straight to the source and hunt digitally for a record of your gift card with the issuer. How is this done? They use automated bots to probe bank-end IT systems at retailers and other organizations for details on card balances and card numbers. Once they have this information they can use the card as if they were the official cardholder. 

Tampering with cards in-store

Another popular ploy is to visit stores where gift cards are on sale and steal the numbers/secret PINs.  That’s right the scammers don’t just work online. Sometimes they’ll go to extreme lengths to disguise their actions, such as recovering PINs with a sticker. They may even wait until the victim goes online to register and load funds onto the card before using it online or making a duplicate to use in-store.

The fake prize

Another category of scams uses the lure of a fantastic prize to trick the user into paying a fee via gift card. Unsolicited contact from the fraudster will inform the victim that they’ve won big, but need to pay a small sum to claim their prize. It could be anything from a car to a holiday – it goes without saying that there is no prize.

Phishing attempts to steal your data

Gift cards themselves can be used to trick users into handing over their personal details. This is where the recipient is approached via email, text or social media with the offer of a large gift card balance. To claim it they need to fill in some personal and possibly financial details, which the cybercriminal will then sell on the dark web or use your identity for themselves.

Scammers are constantly changing their routines, so just remember that if someone is asking for payment by gift card, it is a fraud – gift cards are for gifts only.  Don’t fall for online gift card scams!

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