by Alex Palmer | December 21, 2017
A majority of gift cards sold to consumers lack a few key security features. That was among the findings from consumer spending group ValuePenguin, which conducted a survey of 62 popular store gift cards, finding that just 37 percent of them came with the three features it determined to be essential to their security. 

These three features are: a security/PIN code, theft and loss protection, and online balance checks to detect and prevent attacks by bots. 

With holiday sales of gift cards in full swing, the organization urged consumers to be cautious in their purchases to avoid falling into some of the more common traps set by cybercriminals and hackers. These include automated bots that use a store's online balance check service, inputting random numbers and security codes until they hit on a combination with a balance. Others scan the magnetic strips of unsold gift cards at the store, or scratch off the strip that covers the card number, replace with a new strip, then wait until the card is purchased and activated online.

To help prevent this, the report urged selecting cards with an online balance check protected by a CAPTCHA test. According to ValuePenguin, just three out of five gift cards that it surveyed offered this or required an account log-in. It also emphasized that recipients should have some kind of recourse if they find a zero balance on their gift card -- but loss or theft protection was offered on just 53 percent of the consumer gift cards surveyed.

It also urged selecting cards in which the packaging covers the card number and security code and that are not displayed on racks or kiosks where they are readily accessible.

Of course, for corporate or incentive programs, the strongest solution is to work with a qualified supplier who provides these additional security measures. 

As Jim Atten, president of the Incentive Marketing Association's Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC) and vice president of sales for Shell Gift Cards/RPG Card Services, recently explained to Incentive, "It's best to purchase gift cards from a provider or brand that uses secure fulfillment processes. One of the hard and fast rules is to ensure that none of the recipients have changed emails within the last 14 days. That's often more of an issue for consumer rewards than for employees, but it's how cards can quickly get in the wrong hands."