You might be forgiven for thinking that cybercrime is almost all about ransomware and cryptocoins these days.
In a ransomware attack, the crooks typically blackmail you to send them cryptocurrency in return for giving you your stolen data back (or for not selling it on to someone else).
In a cryptocoin attack, the crooks typically take your cryptocurrency for themselves, perhaps by exploiting a bug in the trading software you use, or by stealing your private keys so they have direct access to your cryptocurrency wallet.
This sort of criminality sometimes involves amounts reaching tens of millions of dollars, or even hundreds of millions of dollars, in a single attack.
But gift card fraud still fills a distressing niche in the cybercrime ecosystem, where a gang of crooks redeem gift cards that you paid for, either because you were convinced that those cards were earmarked for something else, or because the crooks got temporary access to one of your online accounts that allowed them to buy gift cards on your dime.
Indeed, the US Department of Justice announced this week the indictment of four suspected gift card scammers, and alleges that that these four had ended up with more than 5000 fradulently obtained cards to spend on themselves.
This sort of crime might not reach the stratospheric financial territory of ransomware criminals, or the truly cosmic amounts seen in cryptocurrency attacks…
…but if we reasonably assume an average of $200 a gift card (we know that in many scams, crooks come away with more than that on each card), we’re still looking at $1,000,000 of ill-gotten gains in this court case alone.
And the people who lose money in these scams aren’t multinational companies, or cyberinsurers, or megacorporations with financial reserves to tide them over.
The victims here are almost always people just like you, or your grandmother, or your favourite aunt, or your innocent and well-meaning friends.
Gift cards – always for someone else
Buying or acquiring gift cards with someone else’s money is a sneaky trick, because gift cards are generally intended to be sent to someone else rather than to show up at the purchaser’s house.
Cybercriminals who had a…