What Are Gift Card Activation Software Hacks?

March 31, 2023 • Shannon Flynn


Gift card activation software hacks are a budding hacker’s dream. They are simple to perform — depending on which variant you choose — and getting caught is unlikely. Lately, it’s become popular to activate the gift card without purchasing. How do they do this and how does it affect shoppers trying to get gifts for their friends and family?

How Do Hackers Make Money Disappear?

Hackers commit theft with a few methods without leaving a trace on gift cards — one of the best ways to avoid the consequences is knowing how they do it.

First are Magstripe readers. These phone attachments scan the numbers of the card and store them. Hackers do this without the intention to use the card for themselves, but they sell it to others. With a simple call to customer service, a hacker can check its balance and activation status. After that, it’s easy to pawn the gift card number off on someone wanting to shop — usually for a lower price than the card’s value.

A less technologically advanced way this occurs is traditional sticker stealing and scratching. The silver stickers covering gift cards are accessible to anyone who shops online. If someone trying to steal gift card codes has a few stickers in their pocket, they could make a stack of gift cards on the rack look untouched. Once they steal the PIN, they have everything they need.

Will Caput — who worked at a security firm — discovered yet another way to get free money from gift cards in 2017. After researching a stack of unactivated cards from a restaurant, the number sequencing was predictable enough to make educated guesses about what other card numbers could be. Running it through computer programs can generate thousands of possibilities based on an inputted string of numbers.

How Do You Avoid Gifting Empty Cards?

With a global rise in awareness over cybersecurity concerns, it’s hard to keep up with how-tos and tutorials for the best ways to protect your digital assets. But now, the focus is even moving to physical assets like gift cards and — just like your digital files and money — there are ways to decrease risk as well:

  • Have a good look at the card: Inspect it thoroughly before purchasing it. Though hackers have found a way to get the information they need without scratching the surface, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.
  • Buy gift cards online: This is a surefire way not to grab a card a hacker has tampered with or already resold. There’s no way a hacker could run a gift card dry if it doesn’t even exist until you purchase it.
  • If you buy physical, grab from the back of the line: Often, 10 or 20 gift cards hang on the line. It may be inconvenient, but it’s more likely the ones in the back collecting dust aren’t getting handled as much, even by hackers. You can also request gift cards from cashiers if you’re feeling concerned.

Though these are not failsafe, these tips will make you a smarter shopper. Ensure the next birthday you attend won’t result in an angry phone call because you accidentally gifted a card with a zero balance.

What Are Hackers’ Chances of Success?

Gift card activation software hacks have risen in popularity because it’s an easy and versatile grift. In the first half of 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received reports of around $148 million in gift card scams. Authorities cannot trace gift card transactions, but more wary shoppers have opted for Visa prepaid cards since they can follow them.

If someone is found guilty of stealing gift cards, it’s not as easy as paying back the price of the stolen products — it could result in jail time as it counts as credit card fraud.

The FTC has a comprehensive list of protocols for best gift card buying practices and who and when to report suspicious activity. This includes sticking to stores you trust and keeping receipts, if possible, for your records.

Gift Card Activation Software Hack Awareness

It’s hard to keep track of every hack and cybersecurity issue as hackers become more creative with every keystroke. Gift card scams include wide varieties, including money collection and online auction varieties. Still, you can familiarize yourself with how hackers use gift card activation software just in case the next one you purchase is empty.