Scammers have a new way of ripping people off

If you're not mindful of it, it could literally cost you. Gift cards have always been fairly popular, but this year, they seem to be more popular than ever. According to the online fraud prevention company, Bolster, thieves have been hard at work setting up bogus 'gift card balance' checking websites designed to siphon money away from unsuspecting consumers.

Here's how the scam works

You get a gift card for Christmas and put it in a drawer for a few weeks or even months. Eventually, you find it, but by now, you can't remember if you spent some of the money that was on the card. So you're not at all sure how much money is left. You go online and do some searching, which brings up a link to a site promising to give you your gift card balance in just a few clicks.

You surf to the page, enter in your card number, and instead of giving you your balance information. (usually, you'll get a timeout message, but some are more sophisticated than that), it will send the gift card number to a command and control server so the hackers can steal it. They use it to order goodies for themselves, either to keep or resell.

It's easy and even inexperienced scammers can do it

It's low, but it's an easy scam to pull off, and even relatively unsophisticated criminals can manage it, so expect to see lots of bogus balance checking sites this year.

While Target seems to be the retailer that the scammers are most focused on this year, Bolster has spotted a number of other fake balance checking sites targeting companies like:

  • Bath and Body Works
  • Forever 21
  • Amazon
  • The Google Play Store
  • And HBO

Our perspective

Just be aware that the scam exists, and be mindful of where you go on the web when you check your gift card balances.

~ As Hill Street Blues' Sgt. Esterhaus always advised: "Hey, let's be careful out there!" ~


By Denis Wilson

Cybersecurity Expert, Small Business Technology Consultant, Managed Services Provider, Managed IT Support

Thanks for reading this short post. For more tips on thriving with small business technology, check out the other blog posts at DWPIA Blogs. You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

I am also a published author and speaker in cloud computing, work at home, and cybersecurity. I am working extensively with business and professional associations to provide small business technology education programs. Contact me if you would like me to speak at your association

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