Nearly 60% of internet traffic to gift card websites is by malicious bots, per recent data

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While consumers can fall victim to a variety of scams, experts say gift card draining was one of the most common scams that affected people’s lives in 2023.

What’s worse, just about any gift card is vulnerable.

Card draining occurs when a thief tampers with a gift card and “drains” the money before the funds are used by the consumer. AARP reported last year that 23% of U.S. consumers had given or received gift cards that did not have money on them.

These so-called card-draining scams are easy to execute because scammers “have easy access to the technology” used to carry them out, specifically bad bots, according to Arkose Labs CEO Kevin Gosschalk, whose cybersecurity company specializes in bot mitigation and consumer account security.


gift card

Scammers can go out to the dark web and even some websites on the legitimate internet and buy these bad bots, which have “lowered the barrier to entry to scamming. Scammers no longer have to know how to code,” Gosschalk said, adding that “this reality has enabled more scammers to attack at volume and with velocity.”

Sometimes a scam can take place before the card is even purchased because a scammer can tamper with the cards at the store and put them back on the shelf. 

Once the card has been purchased, that card can theoretically be used by a scammer even before it’s redeemed, he added. For instance, scammers use bots to figure out the combinations on the back of the cards so that they can drain the money on the cards, according to Gosschalk. 

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