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Gift voucher scams: the importance of verification

It’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to be more careful than ever about online scams. Although it's not a subject we discuss every day, it's vitally important to our safety and security. To help bring this topic to life, we'll share a story that happened recently (with some details changed to protect privacy).

A cautionary tale

Picture this: A new team member, let's call her Jane, joined a well-known organisation. Keen to show her commitment and enthusiasm, she updated her LinkedIn profile to reflect her new role. As she proudly announced her new position, she received a warm 'welcome to the team' from her boss on the same platform. All seemed to be going smoothly.

Shortly after, she received an email from her 'boss', requesting her to purchase £1500 worth of gift vouchers for clients as a token of gratitude. As an eager new employee, Jane followed the instructions, paying on her personal credit card as she didn’t have access to the company card yet. It was only as she got back to the office and asked her colleague about the cards that she discovered the harsh truth - she had fallen prey to a clever scam. Luckily, she hadn’t sent the gift card information to the scammer and they were able to get some of her money back.

This story is a quintessential example of social engineering, a psychological manipulation tactic used by fraudsters to trick people into divulging sensitive information or making financial transactions under false pretences.

Simple measures for protection

So, how can we avoid falling into the same trap as Jane?

Encourage a culture of enquiry

Firstly, we need to ensure that people feel comfortable questioning anything that seems suspicious, even if it appears to come from someone in a position of authority. Having a healthy degree of scepticism isn't a negative trait - it's a vital protective measure. It's crucial that we don't punish individuals for erring on the side of caution.

Educate employees about scams

Companies should also help employees understand what scams look like. In Jane's case, being familiar with the common signs of a scam might have prevented her from being tricked.

Words from an expert

At this point, we'd like to share some wise words from Vanessa, the head of our Cyber Resilience Centre:

"As Managing Director of the West Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre, I feel so saddened when I hear stories such as this one. Although I’m the Managing Director, my core role, and one I have held for a long time now, is being a Police Officer. The police were set up by Sir Robert Peel in 1829, and even today police abide by the original principles, one of which is to prevent crime.

The Cyber Resilience Centre is here to help businesses prevent themselves from becoming victims of cyber-crimes. The example in this blog is classic and sickening social manipulation of an individual when they only wanted to do well in their new job. We have all been there wanting to impress when in a new role, and I can honestly say that my heart goes out to this person. We could all have fallen for this at some point in our lives.

So, I implore you all to be on the lookout for such nasty people trying to con us out of our money or data, support those who have fallen foul, and for everybody to increase their cyber resilience at every stage of being a business. Stay cyber safe!”

Remember, it's always better to ask questions before you take action, especially if something seems off. In a world where cyber threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated and pervasive, it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve and ensure that your cyber security measures are both compliant and effective.

Get in touch today to start complying with cyber security.


The contents of this website are provided for general information only and are not intended to replace specific professional advice relevant to your situation. The intention of The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands is to encourage cyber resilience by raising issues and disseminating information on the experiences and initiatives of others.  Articles on the website cannot by their nature be comprehensive and may not reflect most recent legislation, practice, or application to your circumstances. The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands provides affordable services and Trusted Partners if you need specific support. For specific questions please contact us.


The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information or materials published on this document. The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands is not responsible for the content of external internet sites that link to this site or which are linked from it.

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