Gift card scams now going by text message

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 By

Gift cards

A new phishing scheme, a gift cards scam, is going around, promising large value gift cards but delivering scullery. Photo Credit: Tom Eppenger, Jr/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

Scam artists are an inventive bunch and they are always thinking of new ways to rob people blind. A new scam going around is a new batch of gift card scams and this new breed of rip-off is going around by text message.

Target gift card scams noted around the holidays

The thing about scam artists is that it’s a pity they’re crooks. If one takes a cursory look at the myriad tricks that crooks use to dupe people out of money, it becomes sort of ironically clear that if they were to put that creativity to use for legitimate purposes, they’d probably get as rich as Croesus, legally and above board.

They probably won’t though.

At any rate, a new scam has been noticed going around, according to Daily Finance, a text message scam involving gift cards. It isn’t the first instance of gift card scams, by a long shot, but it’s at least novel by criminal standards. Target gift cards of $1,000 or similar large gift cards from major retailers like Walmart and Best Buy are usually offered.

Here we go again

It’s an SMS phishing or “smishing” scam. A text message promises a gift card if a person enters a code on a website, along with their phone number. Most people who fall for it expect they’ll get up to $1,000 or more on a gift card.

What they actually get is their personal information taken and sold to black hat marketers in the form of a marketing list. If a person is lucky, they’ll just get a rash of emails promising everything from cheap cruises to “Vigara” – one would make fun of spammers not being able to spell but then again our nation’s schools can’t teach the difference between “they’re” and “their” – and the curious submissions from “barnyardfun.com.”

It can also lead to identity theft. There’s already some fighting back going on. NBC Los Angeles reports  at least two attorneys are filing lawsuits against the companies that sent the texts. It might become class-action, as, according to Daily Finance, the website Scambook.com estimates up to 300,000 people might have received the messages for the gift card scams.

Mild compared to others

This is just one of a number of gift card scams over the years, but that’s a relatively mild one. For instance, according to WBAY, a Green Bay, Wisc., ABC affiliate, one scam involves some pretty heinous credit card fraud. Fraudsters get a hold of a credit card number, then purchase a number of gift cards for large amounts, usually a few thousand dollars’ worth. Scammers tell a cashier their credit card can’t be swiped, so they have them enter the stolen number manually. Then they have the balance transferred to a prepaid debit card and withdraw the cash.

A Burton, Mich., Walmart found more than $80,000 in that exact fraud scheme had been done at the store, according to Michigan news aggregator site MLive. Erica Shontae Walker, a cashier at that Walmart, was in on the scam and is currently awaiting sentencing for concealing a criminal act.

According to a 2011 Fox Business article, another method is for crooks to write down the numbers on a gift card, like the numbers on a credit or debit card. They bide their time until the card is purchased, then spend the balance online.

Sources

Daily Finance

NBC Los Angeles

WBAY

Mlive: http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2013/01/two_charged_after_secret_servi.html

Fox Business: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/10/26/gift-card-scams-how-to-spot-them-how-to-avoid-being-victim/

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