Illustrative image of gift cards.

Beware of Phony Gift Card Email Scams

Cyber thieves are now going after your wallet in addition to your passwords by adopting a simple tactic to trick employees into handing over their money.

While not new, gift card scams are on the rise and can result in a victim losing hundreds or thousands of dollars. In a typical scam, an employee receives an email that pretends to be from their boss or another senior figure or person of authority. It asks them to buy gift cards and send them photos of the backs, for reasons that will supposedly be explained later. The scammer may even ask you to communicate with them via text message.

How to Spot a Gift Card Scam

  • Inspect the sender's email address to confirm it's actually coming from that person. Scammers will often send the email from a random email account and change the Display Name of the email address to either your boss, supervisor, or director.
    Sample Fake Sender
  • The email message will:

    • Indicate some level of urgency, such as indicating they are in a meeting or are heading into a meeting and need your help ASAP.
    • Possibly not include the sender signature, but rather "Sent from my iPad" in order to make it appear as if the person is mobile and away from their desk.
    • Ask you to do them a "favor".
    • Ask you to purchase numerous gift cards with the promise of reimbursement.
    • Possibly have typos and grammatical errors.
    • Appear to be sincere

What To Do

  • Ask yourself, "would this person really ask me to do this?"
  • Call the sender to verify authenticity of the request.
  • Do not reply to the email.
  • Do not purchase any gift cards.
  • Contact us so we can take additional steps and to help validate the authenticity of the email.
Administrative IT Client Services Contact Information

Sample Gift Card Scam Emails

Sample 1

From: Director Name <>
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2019 1:26 PM
To: UC Employee <>

Subject: Request...

I need you to do a chore to purchase Google Play gift cards from Target / Safeway or any other nearby store. Let me know when you receive this email for the amount and denominations you are to purchase then look forward to my response.

Director Name,

Sent from my iPhone

Sample 2

Jane, could you please email me back? I need a favor.

Sample 3

Sally, are you available at the moment? I need you to handle a project. Very busy at the moment. Can't talk. Just send an email when you receive this. Thanks.

Sample 4

I need you to pick up three Home Depot gift cards for our project.

Sample 5

Good to hear from you. I need to get three iTunes gift cards for my niece. It's her birthday but I can't do this now because I'm currently traveling. Can you get them for me from any store around you? I'll pay back next week when I get back home.

Sample 6

Sitting in a meeting right now, there is something i need you to do. Let me know when you are available.

Sample 7

Hello, are you available? Please i need your assistance urgently.

Sample 8

Okay thanks, I was hoping you could help me get some amazon gift cards from
the store, I will reimburse you when I’m done with my conference, I need to
send it to someone now and it is very important because it’s one of my best
friend kid birthday and I fear I may not get it on time myself if I decide
to wait it out.

Sample 9

Subject:Are you available?

Are you available ? I need you to handle something for me now, i'm currently in a meeting with the International Advisory Committee (IAC) with limited phone call and also experiencing some difficulties at the moment, just reply my e-mail if you are available.Thanks

[Signature of a UCD person]

Sample 10

I need you to personally run a task for me ASAP as I am occupied in a meeting at the moment and can't talk but will lookout for your reply and let me know if you can get this done right now.


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