Typically, the victim receives a call demanding an urgent payment by purchasing iTunes or other gift cards/vouchers from the nearest retailer, which could be a convenience store or consumer electronics retailer. The victim is told that this is to settle an overdue tax bill (fraudsters frequently claim to be representing tax authorities), hospital bill, utility bill, debt collection fee or bail money.
Following the purchase, the victim is asked to pay the fraudster over the phone by reading out the 16-digit code (in the case of iTunes gift cards) on the back of the card. The fraudster then either sells the codes on, or purchases high-value products, at the expense of the victim.
In reality, this type of gift card/voucher can be used only to purchase goods and/or services on the website of the business issuing it. However, many people have fallen victim to the scam as they do not understand how such schemes work.
Losses can run into hundreds or even thousands of dollars and most victims are over 65 years of age – although anybody is vulnerable.
No reputable organisation would ask for payment of a bill or debt using vouchers or gift cards. You should never reveal the codes on vouchers or gift cards you have purchased apart from entering them on official websites as full or part payment for goods or services.
If you have been a victim of a voucher / gift card scam
- Report it to the police.
- Report it to your relevant bank or payment card provider immediately. You will find out how to do so by looking on their websites.