The purpose of Business Email Compromise (BEC), a type of phishing attack, is to target employees with access to company finances and trick them into sending money to the hacker. In the past this almost always meant a wire transfer.

From the hackers standpoint, there are two problems with wire transfers. First, they’re hard to keep anonymous. The hacker has to send some information about where to transfer the money. Second, companies are getting wise to this and changing policies to ensure all wire transfer requests are verified through a second channel.

As companies wise up, hackers change their tactics. Now, according to the latest Phishing Activity Trends Report, the newest version of BEC seeks payment in the form of gift cards. According to the report, “Gift cards were requested in 65% of business email compromise (BEC) attacks.”

The report continued, “because they are more anonymous, less reversible, and do not require the use of a mule intermediary, gift cards have quickly emerged as the most popular cash out option for scammers over the past year.”

The good news, if there is any, is that “the amount of money that an attacker can make in each gift card BEC attack is significantly less than with a wire transfer.”

Which gift cards were the most requested? “By far, the most common gift card requested by BEC scammers was for Google Play, Google’s online app store (41%). That was followed by gaming site Steam Wallet (12%), Amazon (9%), and Apple iTunes with (8%).”

If someone sends you an email requesting that you buy them a gift card, you now know there’s a good chance it’s a scam. It’s especially worrisome if they tell you to buy the card, scratch off the back and email them the 16 digits.

There’s no doubt companies will respond by amending their purchase policies to include gift cards, eventually. In the meantime, another way to protect your company against BEC is with cloud-based email security service with real-time link click protection. You can set up our service in 10 minutes, comes with 24/7 live customer support and costs much, much less than a gift card.

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