Gift card scams are noticeably increasing in Kent as cybercriminals are becoming more aware of how vigilant businesses are in reducing the risk of getting hacked. Of course, with every new obstacle in their way, a new method of scamming is born – leaving businesses & employees vulnerable to these clever attacks.
So…what is a Gift Card Scam?
This type of scam is particularly dangerous as it involves the cybercriminal pretending to be someone from your organisation. Scammers will most likely contact you via email, text, or even through messgaing services like WhatsApp or Telegram.
Have a look at the email to the side. It appears as if someone from your organisation (likely of high authority) is emailing you asking if you can urgently purchase some gift cards on their behalf.
Notice the language used which is causal and apologetic all with a sense of urgency – most likely mimicking how your actual colleague speaks.
This scammer was trying to get the employee to buy $500 worth of iTunes vouchers with their own money, by posing as a colleague.
Why does the scammer want gift cards?
Although you might assume that a scammer will only ask for a bank transfer or bitcoin, there are many reasons as to why gift cards are beneficial to the scammer:
- Easy target – gift cards are accessible and easy to buy both online and in store these days, making it a successful and reliable income for the scammer
- They aren’t traceable – scammers can remain anonymous when asking for gift cards as there is no link between them and the purchased card. This way there is no paper trail back to them, even if the victim did try and make a claim.
- No questions asked – To truly gain a cash reward from their scam, the perpetrator will usually sell the gift cards they receive to an online outlet that buys gift cards online – this way they can easily manipulate this system to gain cash.
How can I tell if it’s a cybercriminal and not my colleague?
Ask yourself: how realistic is it that a colleague or decision maker at your workplace is asking you to purchase a gift card for them? If the answer is ‘not realistic at all’ then the chances are you are being targeted by a scammer. If you’re new to a company or feel worried about approaching the person who has emailed you, ask someone in person to confirm if the sender really is who they say they are.
So how can I prevent being targeted in a gift card scam?
Our IT Security Expert Lee Hutton says…
You may never be able to avoid being targeted by a scammer, however there are considerations you should make if you recieve an email like this.
New members of staff tend to be the target for these scammers. They use sites such as LinkedIn to search for new users that have recently joined a company and target them. New users are more likely to co-operate for a variety of reasons.
Cybercriminals can use this to their advantage by using tactics such as a sense of urgency/emergency or pressure to push you into buying gift cards, and unless the company is small, you may have never even met the person who is “on the phone with you”.