I have touched on this in the past and well, here I go again…
The iTunes & Google Play Gift Card scam are common ways people are conned out of their cash today. If you think this happens to just the common home user, think again. Many corporations are plagued daily with fake emails and text messages from bad actors’ attempts to compromise one’s trust and desire to quickly please their management.
These types of scams are not new, they coincided with the decline of money order scams. For those of us that remember the past; Scammers would ask people to send money via Western Union or other wire transfer providers, this was before Western Union was targeted by the government for letting this happen; I guess they were making money either way, so what did they care? More info: https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/14372-deadline-today-531-if-scammers-had-you-pay-via-western-union-you-can-file-a-claim-to-get-money-back
What is the Scam?
The scam itself is very simple – so simple, in fact, you might find it mind-boggling that people are actually falling for it. Hopefully, you specifically may not have been affected by this, but someone you know or work with, or even the organization you are employed with may.
How its starts: A criminal contacts you claiming to be a representative from a Government Agency or Non-Profit Group, and even from someone inside your own Company such as your direct manager, CEO or CFO. They do this by either cold calling (typically using spoofed phone numbers), short unsolicited emails asking you to respond, and even using SMS messages to communicate to the unsuspecting victims.
The victims are then informed that they need to go purchase iTunes (or other) gift cards. Once they’ve done this, all they have to do is give the criminal the digital code revealed underneath the peel-off or scratch off label on the back. This is commonly requested to be sent via photo text message. Once that’s done, your money is gone!
Do many people fall for this?
Short Answer is “Yes”
Who Are the Scammers?
We don’t know, but I can speculate that those involved are doing the following online:
They sell the codes on for a fraction of their retail price. Makes you wonder how or why someone would sell you a sell you $100 iTunes code for $25.00, but people looking for “deals” do just that, and this is how they make a profit.
You can spot these offers all over the internet, I don’t want to call any sites out, but they are often if not always auction sites or social media groups. A lot of people think that they are being sold on the “DARK WEB” — Nope the majority of people buying them are just everyday users using the normal web. Another thing scammer could be doing is using a broker to convert these codes into untraceable currencies such as Bitcoin. All in all, this is money laundering and that means others outside of the scammers (bad actors) are involved and IMO just a bad as they are enabling these exchange. *I’ll touch on that in the future*
What Can I Do About It?
Knowing about this type of scam and emerging ones is half the battle. So spread that knowledge! You might not be tricked by such a simple fraud, but there’s likely to be a relative, friend, coworker, or neighbor who could be fooled.
If you think someone is attempting to scam you: Report it, Warn others, Keep alert.
If you think you’ve been scammed: Contact Apple immediately. The company might be able to cancel the card, but know that the criminals have streamlined their process, after all, it’s businesses to them and a tech one at that, so I am sure some form of automation is involved on their side.
If it’s another gift card (Google Store, for example), you need to contact Google.
What I would like to see
If you’re a retail business owner or work at one: Be aware of this these types of scam and let your peers know about it. It might be worth bringing this subject up to management, Inquiring if they can post notifications and advise customers. Example: If a customer is purchasing a larger quantity of cards; one could inquire if they are making in informed purchase and inform them of such scams. I know it’s a big reach for someone behind the counter to do, but you could save someone from being a victim.
Its why I take time and try to inform others.