Gift card phishing campaigns are on the rise. These scams can be believable and tricky to recognize until it’s too late. Being informed on how this type of scam works will keep you better protected and prevent you from saying: “I can’t believe I just lost $1,000! How could I have fallen for something like this?”.
Emily is one example of falling victim to gift card phishing. Trouble started when she received an email from her company’s CEO requesting a favor. The email stated that he wanted her to get five (5) $200 Best Buy™ gift cards and send the codes to him within an hour. It also stated that she must reply via email only, because he was headed into a meeting. Most people do what their CEO asks, so Emily went to Best Buy™ to purchase the gift cards. After they’re paid for, she sends the codes to her CEO just as he asked. Emily thinks nothing of it and heads back to the office. She later bumps into the CEO and asks if he received her email with the gift card codes. Confused, he tells her that he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. With a sick feeling in her stomach, she realizes that someone was imitating her CEO, and she was just scammed out of $1,000.
Emily’s not alone; this has happened to countless people around the world. Phishers are typically skilled at finding an employee’s name and their position within the company, making them an easy target. They prey on their victims by sending an email posing as the CEO or any type of upper management requesting gift card codes. The email instructs the victim to “act quickly”, creating a sense of urgency and less time to notice it’s a scam. It will also require the victim to respond by email only, stating that the sender is headed to a meeting and won’t have phone access. The details of this email can create an illusion of a legitimate request, making it easy to fall for. Unfortunately, by the time it’s discovered that it was a scam, often times the hackers have already spent the money, and there is no way to get it back.
Take these steps to help prevent and protect yourself from email gift card scams:
- Be Diligent: These emails may seem legit, but always take a moment to check the email address, wording, and general layout for any peculiarities that indicate it’s fraudulent.
- Trust, but Verify: If you have suspicions about whether the email is valid, the best option is to verify with the sender in person or by phone. Don’t respond to the email!
- Exercise Caution: Whatever happens, do not give out your phone number or other personal information. This allows the imitator to use your phone number for other reasons and could lead to worse crimes.
Scammers are highly skilled at targeting human nature, which is why many people fall for their schemes. Gift card phishing campaigns are hot right now, but phishers are creative, and it’s only a matter of time before a new campaign rolls out. The best way to protect yourself from scammers is by becoming informed. The more people who recognize their tactics, the less power they have.Security Awareness Resources