Scammers and spammers are always trying to find ways to steal in the cyber world. They steal money. They steal identities. And they steal data. Cyberthieves even chase individuals in companies like Throttlenet who specialize in IT risk management in hopes a member of our team will fall for their scam. Recently one of our newest team members, AJ, received an attempted gift card scheme email in her ThrottleNet inbox. Thankfully, she did not fall for it. We hope this story helps inspire you to identify and fight back against gift card email scams, too. AJ’s experience is a textbook example of how gift card scams go down. The scammers sent her an email using our President’s name, George, but not the correct email address. In this case, the mismatched email is glaringly obvious, but your scammer may be more cunning. Always double check the “From” email address when you receive a request from your boss or coworkers related to money or data access. You cannot be too careful when your entire business is at stake.

In the first email AJ received, the scammer demanded that she purchase gift cards for hundreds of dollars. Once purchased they would have asked for the scratched off codes so they could immediately use them online. Thankfully, AJ looked at the from address and realized that George never talks that way and did not fall for the scam. Below is a recap of AJ’s email conversation with Gift Card Scammer “George” so you can see verbiage used and how it played out. She had a little fun with this one.

From: George Rosenthal
To: AJ
Can you spare some time to run a quick task
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From: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz> To: AJ
I’ll need you to purchase 3 eBay gift cards, with $500 increments on each card and all cards should be activated ($500 x 3, 1500). Scratch off the back of the gift cards, take a clear pic of each card and email them to me. Do get on this immediately, I’ll be waiting
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
Oh wow, okay. I’m not sure where to get them though, or which card to use… can you call?
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From: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz> To: AJ
You should make use of the company card at walmart. Or better still make use of yours, would reimburse you. Do get on this immediately, I’ll be waiting
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
I don’t have a company card yet, but I can call my credit card company and see if I have enough available. How long would it be until I get reimbursed?
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From: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz> To: AJ
It will take 3-5 working days to reimburse you.
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
Oh that’s longer than I expected, I’m not sure about putting that much on my personal card. Is this for something very important?
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
Would reimburse you in two days then. I need it ASAP! It’s important
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
So I would have it back on my card by Monday? I’m still planning to go out of town next week, so I definitely would need it back on my card by Monday.
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
Okay that’s fine.
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
Okay good, I’ll go up to Walmart on my lunch break and see if they have any Amazon gift cards for you!
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
Try eBay gift cards first and if they don’t have that then you can go for Amazon gift card
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
Hi George,
I went to Walmart on my lunch break but they didn’t have any more eBay gift cards OR Amazon gift cards! I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to do and just came back to the office. I know you said this was important, what should I do?
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
How come? What kinda gift card do they have? Get back to me. If you can’t get this done do let me know on time.
======================
From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
I don’t know why they didn’t have any more, I didn’t think to ask. I saw lots of restaurant gift cards though, Texas Roadhouse, Starbucks, Taco Bell, things like that. Would any of those work? What are the gift cards for? Are they a client gift?
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
Starbucks is preferable. It’s confidential, Get on this immediately
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
I understand, I promise I’m trying to take care of it as quickly as possible! There’s a lot going on today though, Sarah brought all her rabbits in this morning and they have completely destroyed the breakroom and one of them chewed up the printer wires and everyone is completely freaking out. Richard said I was supposed to be keeping an eye on them, but it’s only my second week and there’s really no way I could’ve done that in addition to running all the service tickets, I’m still learning all this stuff! Please be patient with me, I don’t want to get fired…
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
You won’t get fired. I’ll be waiting on you to get on this ASAP!
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
Are you sure? He’s really upset and since I was already going to go out of town next week, I’m really really getting worried I might come back and they will have given away my job. Will you talk to Richard for me?
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
I asked you to run an errand for me yesterday and you kept mute on me. It seems you want to be sack right ? I’m giving you 10mins to get back in touch with me.
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
Are you sure? He’s really upset and since I was already going to go out of town next week, I’m really really getting worried I might come back and they will have given away my job. Will you talk to Richard for me?
======================
From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
George,
I’m so sorry, I left early on Friday because my son had the flu and I needed to pick him up from school. Everything was pretty hectic that day, but Sarah told me she would let everyone know what was going on. Did she not speak with you??
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
It took a while before I would hear from her. So have you gotten a way to get the gift cards ?
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
I honestly hadn’t thought about it, I figured Sarah would take care of it. To be honest, I’m so new here that I’m kind of surprised you are asking me to take care of this. Isn’t there someone else who would be better to ask?
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
Yes I want you to do it but if you can’t do it don’t worry.
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
Really? You said it was really important, and it definitely seemed very urgent…
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
You are questioning my order. So I’m not interested in letting you do this for me anymore.
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From: AJ
To: George Rosenthal <personalilipad@seznam.cz>
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to question you. Just wanted to make sure. Please let me know if you need help with anything else!
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From: George Rosenth
To : AJ
Go ahead and get the cards for me now. Purchase either eBay Gift card or Target Gift card. I’ll be waiting
…………………

Gift cards are for gifts, NOT for payments. You should assume that anyone who tells you to pay with a gift card is a scammer. You can and should report gift cards used in a scam to the companies that issued the gift cards. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a great video on their site to show how these types of scams are run. Could a gift card scam hurt your company? What kind of damage could it do? Bring in an expert to assess your business risks with a FREE vulnerability audit. We can look for proper spam filtering to prevent phishing attacks and malware attacks. Interested in what ThrottleNet can do for your business? Contact us today!