Avoiding Gift Card Scam

Do Your Boss a Favor and Don't Fall for a Gift Card Scam

There are a million excuses why someone might send you a text, email or social media message that says, “Can you do me a favor?” It might be something simple like your boss asking you to go get some gift cards for a company-wide promotion, or a more cryptic message from a friend that claims they are locked out of their phone’s account and need a gift card to get back in. No matter what excuse they offer, there is a good chance it is actually a scammer posing as someone you know in order to steal from you.

The boss gift card scam is so simple that it requires almost no tech know-how. The message claims to be from someone you know. They might have “spoofed” your boss’ work email by changing the address a little, actively hacked into someone’s account or are pretending they are using a stranger’s phone or computer since theirs is locked. A simple internet search for your place of employment would show a scammer not only the names of people within the company but usually their email addresses as well. Some scammers may even send a spam email to the boss first to see if it is auto-replied with an “out of town” message, specifically so they can reach out to you under the boss’ names since they are traveling.

In this email scam, you are given a very plausible story as to why they need a gift card. You are to buy the card, send over the numbers from the back and then they will pay you back. But as too many victims already know, the last step is the one that does not happen.

First, it is important to remember that once a gift card is bought or its code is revealed, it is just as vulnerable as cash. There is no way to recover those funds if you lose the card or its number is given to someone else.

Also, there is no plausible reason why someone would need you to go purchase a gift card. Most major companies will sell their gift cards in stores and online, and retailers like Amazon and Walmart who sell other companies’ gift cards will even sell others’ cards on their websites.

Finally, the best way to avoid becoming the victim of a boss gift card scam is to pick up the phone and call the person who is asking. If you verify the purchase before doing it, you will know for sure if this is genuine or not. This might mean giving your boss a quick phone call to ask if the email is real. Trust your instincts and protect yourself (and your company).

Originally Published by the Identity Theft Resource Center 2019.

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