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PSA: Beware of Gift Card Scams

Written By

Capsicum Group

This time of the year is marked by various holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and others, depending on cultural and religious backgrounds. It's a peak period for shopping as individuals and companies engage in gift-giving, express gratitude to clients, employees, friends, family, and charitable organizations. However, it is also a time when people are often stressed and have hectic schedules causing there to be a heightened risk of falling victim to scammers who use gift card requests to fraudulently obtain money.  This blog will provide some guidelines to avoiding being a victim:
Typical scenario:
You or someone at your company receive an unexpected text or email from what appears to be someone you know. The scammer (imposter) is hoping you react to their text because of your relationship with that person. The scammer will ask you by name if you can help them obtain gift cards at a specific store (like Apple) and provide a suggested dollar amount. The scammer will advise that this is something that needs to be done quickly; they are too busy; time is of the essence; they appreciate your help; and ask if you can help? If you fall victim, you get the gift cards, and instead of bringing the cards to “your friend or known contact” you provide the gift card numbers and codes through the text or email as the imposter advises it will be quicker than meeting.  
Verify the Identity:
If a request (typically via an email or text message) is unexpected or seems suspicious, verify the person's identity through a trusted and independent communication channel. Contact them directly using known contact information, such as a phone number or email address that you already have, to confirm the legitimacy of the request. If something doesn't feel right, trust your instincts. It's better to be cautious and take the time to verify before proceeding with any requests for gift cards.
Question the Request:
Ask questions to yourself about whether this even sounds legitimate. If the request seems unusual or raises red flags (such as urgent requests, pressure tactics, requests for specific brands of gift cards, or requests for large sums of money), be skeptical and do not reply. A reply will only confirm to the scammer that they have your correct contact information.  If you do engage, you will find that the scammer will not respond directly to specific questions as they suspect you are fishing to determine the legitimacy of the request. Remember, if something doesn't feel right, trust your instincts. It's better to be cautious and take the time to verify before proceeding with any requests for gift cards.
Do Not Share Personal Information:
Avoid sharing personal or financial information with anyone you cannot verify. Scammers may attempt to gather additional details for identity theft or other fraudulent activities.
Trust Your Instincts:
In many cases, legitimate organizations and individuals would not request payment or assistance in the form of gift cards. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of the request, it's safer not to respond or provide any information until you can verify the situation independently.
So, as we journey through the holiday season, be mindful and safeguard yourself and your employees from those who are looking to catch you off-guard so as not to fall victim to theft. At Capsicum Group, we conduct security assessments and audits. We also offer companies security awareness training and regularly investigate security breaches, encompassing various threats such as malware, phishing, denial-of-service, and social engineering, among other threats.