Category : security

Happy Holidays, and congratulations on another semester completed! Psst - also don’t be scammed! 

Hello, and welcome to the end of the semester; you made it! With the holidays coming up and long-awaited reunions with family and home, we wanted to leave you with well wishes and say that we cannot wait to see you again come spring. However, we also have a duty to mellow the atmosphere a bit, quotas and all, and inform you about one last type of scam that becomes especially prevalent at this time of the year: gift card scams. Gift cards have become a popular choice for presents and rewards, but unfortunately, they have also attracted the attention of scammers. It is essential to be aware of the different gift card scams and adopt preventive measures to safeguard your hard-earned money, so we can keep the holidays jolly. This week, we will examine some common types of gift card scams and some ways to protect yourself from them. 


Tactics to ensure you get enough coal for the winter 

The Fake Seller - In this scam, malicious agents pose as legitimate sellers or individuals offering discounted or high-value gift cards. They may advertise on online marketplaces, social media platforms, or through unsolicited emails. Be cautious when purchasing gift cards from unfamiliar sources and verify the legitimacy of sellers through reputable channels. 

The Gift Card Swap - Scammers infiltrate physical gift card displays and swap out activated gift cards with ones that have no value. Unsuspecting customers purchase these tampered cards and only realize the deception when attempting to use them. Always inspect gift cards for any signs of tampering, such as scratched-off PINs or loose packaging, and buy from reputable retailers. 

The Prize or Lottery Scam - In this scheme, scammers contact individuals claiming they have won a lottery or prize, and to claim their reward, they must purchase gift cards as a form of payment or verification. Legitimate organizations will never ask for gift cards as a means of claiming a prize. Be skeptical of unsolicited messages or calls promising winnings and avoid sharing gift card information. 

The Tech Support Scam - Scammers pretend to be technical support personnel, claiming that your computer or device has a problem that can be fixed with gift card payment. Remember, legitimate tech support services will never ask for gift card payments. Be cautious of unsolicited tech support calls or messages, and always verify the authenticity of such requests. 

The Refund Scam - Fraudsters contact victims, pretending to be representatives from a company or service, claiming they owe a refund. To process the refund, they ask victims to purchase gift cards and provide the card information for reimbursement. Legitimate companies will never ask for gift cards as a refund method. Verify refund requests directly with the company using trusted contact information. 

The Emergency Scam – In this type, scammers claim to be a friend, family member, or even your boss, with an emergency. They will ask you to get them some gift cards to help with said emergency. This attack can come by phone call using voice cloning, but it often comes as an email, so be sure to check the email for hallmark signs of a phish (did it really come from a known email address?) They’ll often ask you not to tell anyone. If concerned, contact the sender via a friend or relative. 


Tactics to ensure that while they may have coal, they won’t also have your money 

Purchase from Trusted Sources - Buy gift cards from authorized retailers or directly from the brand's official website. Avoid purchasing from third-party sellers or individuals on unofficial platforms. 

Inspect Gift Cards - Carefully examine gift cards for any signs of tampering, such as scratched-off PINs, exposed codes, or loose packaging. Report any suspicious cards to the store or retailer. 

Be Skeptical of Unsolicited Requests - Be cautious of unsolicited messages, calls, or emails asking for gift card payments, verification, or personal information. Legitimate organizations will not demand payment through gift cards. 

Verify Requests - Independently verify refund, payment, or prize claims by directly contacting the company or organization using official contact information. Do not rely on contact details provided by the potential scammer. 

For more details on gift card scams and advice on how to avoid them, see the FTC website. 


Have a safe holiday and thank you for your continued vigilance! 

--WU ITS Information Security





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