Fraud Alert as Cyber Monday Sales Kick Off

Security experts have lined up to warn consumers of a deluge of phishing and gift card scams as Cyber Monday kicks off today.

The US online sales blitz has also become something of a staple across some European countries, especially in the UK where it’s predicted that sales today will take total online spending for the weekend to over £7bn.

However, shoppers have been urged to watch out for two gift fraud scams. One involves cyber-criminals using “dirty” money to buy gift cards, which they can then sell on third-party sites for a discounted price, thereby laundering their funds.

“Gift cards are legitimately traded online by people who, for example, were given a gift card to a store that they never shop at, so instead of a £50 gift card that they will never use, they sell it for £30 and take the cash in return,” explained Trustwave VP of security research, Ziv Mador. “The buyer then gets £20 worth of free credit. This poses a risk to the end customer because if the gift cards are found to be bought with stolen money they could be invalidated.”

In another scenario, cyber-criminals use dirty money to buy gift cards which they then use to purchase legitimate goods. These can be re-sold to unsuspecting customers on eBay and similar sites. Although the customer is likely to be refunded if the scam is spotted and blocked in time, they’ve wasted time and effort in the process.

Elsewhere, experts warned consumers of a surge in phishing emails designed to coincide with the busy sales period, especially those offering huge discounts.

Cybereason chief security officer, Sam Curry, urged users not to click on any links or open attachments, even if they appear to come from ‘trusted’ vendors.

Phishing emails could also come from ‘credit card providers,’ he claimed.

“The consumer stressing out about a high volume of debt they are carrying on multiple credit cards, might receive an email pretending to be from the credit card company saying their account is overdue and is subject to being shut down unless they make a minimum monthly payment,” Curry warned. “The unsuspecting consumer gives away their credit card information and other personable identifiable information.”

One company estimated sales of £7bn in the UK from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, with shoppers spending an average of £220 each.

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