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What not to get Mom for Mother’s Day

May 11, 20173 mins

This gift will put you at the bottom of Mom’s favorite’s list.

baby infant mom
Credit: Thinkstock

With Mother's Day just a few days away, this is the day that you thank your Mom for her love and support. ... But don't thank her with a gift card.

Gift cards have been the favorites of late for hackers. Criminals have been hacking the gift card systems in pursuit of gift card numbers of cards that have already been issued, but haven’t yet been spent.

What is your mom going to think when she gets a gift card and then goes to use it, only to find out there is no money on the card?

Since 93 percent of U.S. consumers buy or receive a gift card every year and the market is projected to reach $160 billion by 2018, gift cards have become the ideal target for cyber attackers. The structure of gift cards is well-understood and automated bots can be used to make millions of attempts and successfully "crack a card" and steal the balance. Not only is this type of fraud disappointing for the recipient who is left with an empty card, for retailers it can impact revenue, damage customer loyalty and decrease brand reputation, said Omri Iluz, CEO and Co-Founder of PerimeterX, a provider of behavior-based web protection.

Iluz said attackers can bring a bot army of balance checkers to a company's website, crack customers' gift cards and cash out. They will use the funds in the customer account for purchases, or sell the gift card information on the black market. His advice for retailers is to:

  • Ensure you identify visitors to your website as human or not and block malicious visitors in real-time to protect your customers.
  • Have at least a CAPTCHA in place for websites, where your customers can check their gift card balances online. Sophisticated bots are able to solve CAPTCHA better than a human, but you'll be able to block the simpler attacks.

Advice for consumers purchasing a gift card

  • Right after you get a gift card, log into the card account and change password/code.
  • Always document your balance. Most merchants will  return money, if you can tell them it was stolen from the gift card. But for that you need to be able to provide proof of how your gift card funds were used.
  • If your gift card balance is stolen, report this to the merchant immediately. It will help you get your gift card balance reimbursed and alerts the merchant to the fraud so they can take measures to prevent such crime from happening in the future.
  • Be aware of phishing scams. Never click on a link from an email to check your gift card balance. Always go directly to the merchants' online gift card balance check site, for example Target GiftCard Balance.
  • Don't leave your card unattended. Fraudsters can pick it up and duplicate it in seconds.