Australians paid scammers $3.1m in iTunes cards in 2018

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Tuesday, 26 March, 2019

Australians paid scammers $3.1m in iTunes cards in 2018

Gift cards are increasingly the payment method of choice for scammers, according to the ACCC. Data from the regulator’s Scamwatch service shows that more than $5 million was lost to scams involving gift cards in Australia during 2018, including $3.1 million in iTunes cards alone.

Gift card scams commonly involve impersonating a legitimate organisation to demand payment in the form of gift cards.

One common scam involves scammers masquerading as the ATO claiming there is a warrant for the victim’s arrest due to unpaid taxes, and demanding the victim pay an immediate fine using gift cards of Bitcoin to have the warrant retracted.

The Scamwatch data shows that iTunes cards accounted for $3.1 million in losses during 2018, up 156% from 2017. But losses to scams where non-iTunes gift cards — such as Google Play, Amazon and Steam cards — were used as payment also surged 530% in 2018 to around $1 million.

Scammers also often use the promise of gift cards to entice victims into giving up personal details — even including bank or credit card numbers.

ACMA Deputy Chair Delia Rickard urged the Australian public to be aware that no legitimate company or government agency will ever demand payment in the form of a gift card.

“Scammers like to get gift cards as payment as it’s easy for them to quickly sell them on secondary markets and pocket the cash. If anyone asks for payment using a gift card, it is a scam, simple as that,” she said.

“It’s concerning that the scammers are now demanding payment in other forms of gift cards. This is likely in response to scam warnings about using iTunes cards for paying scammers that are in stores like supermarkets and on the cards themselves.”

Rickard also called on businesses selling gift cards to inform their staff about these scams, so they can warn customers if they notice a customer spending large amounts of money on gift cards.

Image credit: © Arakon

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