Gift Card Scams

Published On: December 7th, 2022Categories: Business Technology, Cyber Security, Tech Tips

Some gifters refuse to buy gift cards because they are too impersonal, while others are relieved just to be done with their gift shopping. On the other hand, who doesn’t love getting a gift card to pick something out for themselves?

But with every transaction, shoppers need to be aware of potential scams lurking everywhere. So here are five gift card-related scams to be on the lookout for this holiday season.

Recent Gift Card Related Scams

  1. Phone Scams
    Scammers most frequently used attack vector is to call someone up and pressure them with either legal actions, threats of debt collection or even threats to turn off their utility services. The scammer then tells the victim that they must purchase gift cards in certain amounts and supply the card numbers to resolve the issue. Gift cards should never be used as payment to cover something else.
  2. Money Trouble
    Scammers often attempt to leverage sympathy by claiming they’re having money troubles or that they are in danger and need money fast. This tactic can often involve a fake dating profile or the scammer pretending to be someone you know. And, of course, a gift card is the only thing that will help them in their dire time of need.
  3. Online Sales
    You may see gift cards on sale online for less than the stated value or on an auction site. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. Why would any company sell a $50 gift card for pennies? The answer is they wouldn’t.
  4. Point-of-Sale
    When shopping for gift cards, it is important to always keep your eyes on the card. Another attack vector can occur at the point of sale, where the cashier rings up your card but then switches it with another card, thus pocketing your card for themselves.
  5. The Collector
    This scam requires quite a bit of patience and persistence. A scammer uses a magstripe reader to collect card numbers, then using a computer script, they wait for the card to be activated by a paying customer. Once activated, the scammer now has the ability to use the money. This tactic would likely damage the card packaging, so be sure to only purchase unblemished cards.

Quick Tips To Stay Safe

  • Only buy gift cards from trusted stores and websites.
  • Don’t give gift cards as a form of payment (and don’t accept them as payment either).
  • Check your gift card packaging before purchasing.
  • Don’t activate your gift card until you are ready to use it.
  • Keep your receipts from gift card purchases.
  • If you think you are a victim of gift card fraud, contact the company on the card immediately.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Scammers are continuously looking for new tactics to separate you from your money. Practicing awareness and educating yourself on potential scams are simple ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of one of these attacks.

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About the Author: Eric Vicencio

Eric began his career in healthcare, and he has been working in the IT field since 2006 when he graduated from Northern Illinois University. Eric specializes in Infrastructure, SQL and compliance: Licensing, HIPAA, GLBA and PCI.