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How to protect yourself against spam gift card messages this Holiday Season..

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This holiday season will look different from past years in terms of the gift list. Digital gift card sales are likely to increase, especially during this pandemic era that many shoppers are planning to rely on e-commerce for holiday shopping. Technology has made everything that we do easy and fast. The main change that technology has brought in the field of commerce is e-commerce, where everyone can place orders online and get the products at their doorstep. This is a great milestone, especially during the corona period where we are avoiding as crowded areas as possible. 

However, given the spike in digital activity predicted over the holidays, cybercriminals are as well making their lists and doubling them too. Many people with the malicious target are creating fake links that lead to unwanted sites. It's a particularly risky time of the year where shoppers of all age groups flock to search engines and online channels to place orders before holiday date cutoffs. Many opportunistic hackers know their tricks well and create enticing seasonally-appropriate lures to scam online shoppers. 

Here are the most common cyber threats to check on during the holidays:

Gift cards are the primary vector for cybercriminals and scammers. Stealing money loaded onto gift cards is just like stealing cash. Unlike credit cards transactions, gift cards do not allow chargebacks. Malicious people take advantage of every vulnerable project, especially to steal from the users. Similarly, thieves are keen to look out for ways to take advantage of this holiday season. Hackers have gone as far as to manipulate gift cards sold in stores, scratching off the layer of protective coating to write down pin numbers, then "replacing" the coating with a sticker, so it looks brand new. Scammers plug those PINs into software that sends an alert once someone has purchased and activated their gift card- and then proceed to drain all its funds. 

Another common gift card-related ploy is the account takeover attack (ATO). A cybercriminal uses stuffing or password spraying tactics to obtain account credentials for a particular e-commerce platform. They then use this information to make purchases on using that account information, often buying high-value electronic gift cards in bulk before promptly spending those gift cards to avoid being tracked down. 

What are the measures to avoid becoming the target of gift card scams? Users should remain vigilant and follow the best practices as listed below:

  • Set a strong password for every online account. Make sure that you don't repeat the same password across any platform. 
  • Regularly update your login credentials and monitor your payment accounts for signs of unusual activity. 
  • If you purchase gift cards from the stores, inspect them keenly for signs of tampering before loading funds.
  • Never agree to pay for online purchases in gift cards when prompted via email. In these instances, the item you are trying to purchase probably doesn’t exist. You should stick with retailers you know and trust and make sure the site's checkout system is secure. 

 Besides gift card scammers, there is a high rise in the number of scammers on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. For instance, fashion designs have attracted many scammers because most of the people who buy fashion clothes and shoes are youths, and they have no idea of cybercrime. Once your order and pay for the products online, the number does not pick up calls, and you end up losing your cash. Let’s be aware of these thieves.

Stay safe online this season by remaining vigilant. Never blindly trust someone who intruded on you via email, message, or phone call. Also, pass this information to anyone you feel could benefit from it. Let's educate each other since it's the best weapon in fighting back against cybercrime.

 


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