Happy Black Friday – New Takes on Gift-Card Scams Flourish!

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Fake merchandise & ‘crypto-jacking’ are among the new ways cyber-criminals will try to defraud people going online for Black Friday & Cyber Monday.

Black Friday cyber-crooks have remodelled gift-card frauds to better target modern online shoppers thirsty for pre-Xmas deals. Experts warn new tactics include bogus gift-card generators that install malware designed to find a victim’s cryptocurrency wallet address.

Face Value

Internet-based Black Fri. & Cyber Mon. scams have become common. That’s why scammers roll out new ways to ensnare cyber shoppers. In a Tues. post, researchers at Malwarebytes Labs, outlined this year’s latest gift-card scams. One variation includes offering gift cards for significantly less than face value as a method to tempt users to buy stolen gift-cards or download malware.

“If you see websites offering all kinds of discounts on gift cards, you can be assured that these will turn out to be fakes or they have been acquired in an illegal way and you could be acting as a fence,” wrote Pieter Artnz, Malwarebytes Malware Intelligence Researcher.

Generating Scams

Researchers state they have been tracking a number of websites that claim to provide “gift card generators” that people can use to generate the code for all kinds of gift cards. These sites can be particularly deceptive because they use major brands such as Amazon, Roblox, Google, Xbox & PS5.

The “lucky” people who fall victim to these scams will download gift-card generators & be informed just before trying to use them that they don’t actually generate valid gift-card codes, but only “random codes for ‘educational purposes,’” Artnz wrote. Likely this occurs after people fill out surveys & give up personal information.

Nasty

However, these scams can get much nastier, with the process to obtain a gift-card generator actually downloading malware to someone’s system, researchers observed.

Artnz described 1 such scam that used a gift-card generator to steal cryptocurrency from victims using a file titled “Amazon Gift Tool.exe” that was being marketed on a publicly available file repository site as a free Amazon gift card generator.

Clipboard

“In reality, the malware watched a user’s clipboard to find text that matches the normal length of a certain type of cryptocurrency wallet address,” he wrote.

“If other criteria were met, to ensure that the victim was involved in a Bitcoin Cash transfer, the malware replaced the string on the clipboard with the attacker’s Bitcoin Cash wallet address.”

The scam depends on the victim not noticing that his or her crypto wallet address is on the clipboard when pasting it during the transaction, they noted. If successful, the transfer goes to the cyber-criminal instead of the intended recipient.

Better Gift

To avoid falling for these & other cyber-criminal scams on Black Friday this year, people have some options. They can choose to be more creative in their choice of presents, keeping in mind that many gift cards end up going unspent, Artnz wrote.

Indeed, according to a July 2021 survey by Bankrate, 51% of US adults currently have unused gift cards, vouchers or store credits totalling roughly $15b in outstanding value.

Lost a Card

Moreover, slightly less than that, 49%, of US adults have lost a gift card, voucher, or store credit at some point.

If people do decide to use Black Friday to shop for gift cards online, they can keep 1 simple rule in mind to avoid being defrauded, Artnz recommended.

“It always helps to keep in mind that if something sounds too good to be true, it is probably not true at all,” he concluded.

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