Why Do Scammers Ask For iTunes Gift Cards?

by Tim Chesonis | Last Updated:  May 10, 2019

Over the last few years, there has been an increase in interest in gift cards, but of all the different types of gift cards available on the market today, Apple iTunes Gift Cards are extremely valuable, but why?

Scammers love iTunes gift cards because they are able to turn gift cards into cash quickly. Because Apple iTunes gift cards are untraceable, they serve as the perfect commodity for money-laundering, which is why iTunes gift cards are so valuable.

In this article we will expose why and how con artists scam people out of iTunes gift cards, and what you can do to prevent from being their next victim.

How Prevalent are iTunes Gift Card Scams?

It’s so prevalent, it’s almost embarrassing. People fall prey to scammers every day, and if you are one of them, I honestly feel for you.  I’m not going to condemn you or judge you, but I hope that in reading this article, you will find yourself equipped to know what to look for, so that you never ever get scammed again.

The number one priority of the scammer is to get the victim to quickly read the number on the back of the iTunes gift card.

A scammer may initially contact you someone by e-mail, text, or even by calling them on their cell phone.  After convincing them that they need their help, they will do whatever it takes to get them to the store to purchase the iTunes gift card.  I have read stories where the scammer will literally go so far as to keep them on the phone while the victim is in the store purchasing the iTunes gift card.

After the iTunes gift card has been purchased, the number one priority of the scammer is to get the victim to quickly read the number on the back of the iTunes gift card.  This is the information scammers want so that they can sell the gift card for real money.

Why Are iTunes Gift Cards So Valuable?

Scammers love iTunes gift cards because they are able to turn the gift cards into cash quickly.  This is how the scam works.

The Scammer either hires a developer to create an app, or partners with an app developer who has already created an app that offers in-app purchases.  For example, an app that offers “50 gems” for $1.99, or to get to the next level of a given app, you can either spend 20 hours trying to get enough points to get to the next level, or simply pay $1.99 to get to that level right now.

Now, once the “partnership” has been established, the scammer will then do their best to get people to purchase iTunes gift cards by pulling on the heart-strings of the victim.  Once the victim purchases the iTunes gift card and reads the number off of the card to the scammer, they can then use the iTunes gift card to buy “Gems” (in-app purchases), which Apple then pays out to the app-developer in cash.

Because Apple iTunes gift cards are untraceable, this serves as the perfect money-laundering scheme, which is why iTunes gift cards are so valuable.

How to Recognize an iTunes Gift Card Scam

If you only remember one thing from this entire article, remember this:  If you are not physically at an Apple store, and someone asks you to pay for anything using an iTunes gift card, then understand that it is a scam.  There is absolutely ZERO reason to use an iTunes gift card to pay for ANYTHING.  That is what cash is for.  If someone asks you to ether purchase an iTunes gift card and send it to them, or if they simply just want the serial number off of the back of the card, then understand that they are scammers and are trying to scam you.

If someone other than an Apple representative at an Apple store asks you to use an iTunes give card to pay for anything, it’s a scam.

How do scammers get away with this?  It’s almost always due to the naiveté of the victim.  They just do not recognize a scam when they see one, and often are not thinking an e-mail could be a phishing scam.

There are two popular ways in which scammers try to scam businesses and organizations.  One method is to send carefully tailored emails to people in an organization that appear to come from a legitimate email addresses within the company, perhaps from the employer.  These e-mails are written in such a way as to make the recipient feel guilty if they do not “help” out their “boss” by purchasing the iTunes gift cards for them.  Due to the nature of the “emergency”, the “Boss” requests that they take a picture of the front and back fo the iTunes gift card and send it to the “Boss”, (the e-mail address it came from).

A second method that scammers will use takes a lot more effort and expertise.  They will use malware hidden in an email attachment or they might provide a malicious phishing link for one to click on so that they can gain access to the network of the given organization in an attempt to see what they might be working in an attempt to figure out what needs they might have.  Once discovered, they will then approach the leadership within the organization as a “contractor” with fictitious business propositions.

How to Report an iTunes Gift Card Scam

Do NOT go to the store that you purchased the iTunes gift card from and ask for your money back.

Apple states on their website that “If you believe you’re the victim of a scam involving App Store & iTunes Gift Cards or Apple Store Gift Cards“, that you should call 1 (800) 275-2273 and then press “6” for OTHER, and then say “OPERATOR” to be connected to a real person where you can share your experience.

Additionally, you can file a complete with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), or you can call the FTC’s Consumer Response Center at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Do NOT go to the store that you purchased the iTunes gift card from and ask for your money back, as they are not responsible for what you do with the iTunes gift card after purchasing it.

As a Victim of an iTunes Gift Card Scam, What Recourse Do You Have?

Let me state from the get-go, Apple will not refund your money.  If you buy an iTunes gift card and give that gift card away for any reason, Apple will not refund you . . . and I don’t blame them.  I would not refund the value of the gift card either.  If I may, let me explain by offering a personal story from experience.

If you fall prey to such a scam, don’t go to Apple. Go to the Police. 

About 20 years ago, a “homeless” man who walked with a heavy limp, held a sign outside of a local shopping mall that read, “Will work for food to feed family”.

Out of compassion, we give this “homeless” man $50 worth of groceries to feed his family, and I even told him to meet me at that same spot the next day, and I would help him find a job.

Not only did he not show up, but when I flagged down the patrolling mall security vehicle to inquire of the “homeless” man, the police told me that he’s a known con-artist and does that for a living, fake limp and all.

Clearly I was the victim here and was conned.  I fell for the scam.

Do I now have the right to go to the grocery store and demand that they refund me for the $50 that I spent on groceries for the “homeless” man? Of course not.  Neither does Apple have any obligation to refund victims who fall prey to con-artists who convince them to purchase iTunes gift cards for them.

If you fall prey to such a scam, don’t go to Apple, as they can not help you.  Go to the Police.  A crime has been committed, but it was not Apple that committed the crime, it was the scammer, the con-artist.  The chances of you getting your money back are slim-to-none, regardless of how much money you spent on iTunes gift cards.  However, if there is any hope of getting your money back, it’s only going to happen if the Police catch the criminal.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Scam

There are several things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming the next victim from a scammer.

You need to be very suspicious when reading email.

If you believe an e-mail to be legitimate, call the sender on the telephone to get their verbal agreement.  Don’t call the number in the e-mail, call the number you already have in your phone, or in the business phone directory.  If you can’t speak to them in person or on the phone, then delete and ignore the e-mail.  Don’t reply, just delete it.

When my Dad taught me how to drive a car, I distinctly remember him saying, “You have to drive as though everyone out on the road is trying to hit you“.  He was trying to instill a defensive driving mindset in me.  This is true with e-mail as well.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, you need to be very cautious when reading EVERY e-mail that you receive.

If you receive an e-mail from someone who you know and it sounds out-of-place, or “off”, call the sender of the e-mail directly and ask them directly if they sent you the e-mail.  If you don’t know the sender, DELETE the email.

If you don’t recognize the sender, delete it.

There is one thing you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of these scammers.  You can use an app available for IOS and Android, called “PrivacyStar”.  When a call comes in, it will tell you the name of the caller, and why they are calling before you even answer the phone.  SafeGuardTips.com has no affiliation with this company, however, you can download the app here if you like.

The bottom line is that if you receive a text message or a phone call from a number you do not recognize, (or even a hand written letter from someone you don’t know), ignore it.  If it’s that important, the one trying to contact you will find another way to contact you.  You always want to verify any request that comes to you, and remember that if anyone other than an Apple employee at an Apple store asks you to pay for anything using an iTunes gift card, it’s a scam.

Closing Thoughts

iTunes gift cards should only ever be used to purchase items in the iTunes Store, iBooks Store, App Store, or for an Apple Music membership.  You should only use iTunes gift cards to purchase from YOUR iPhone, iPad, or your computer, or in person at an official Apple Store.  Just like a Home Depot gift card can not be used anywhere else other than Home Depot, so too, an iTunes Gift Card can’t be used for any other reason than to purchase Apple products from Apple.  If someone other than an Apple representative at an Apple store asks you to use an iTunes give card to pay for anything, it’s a scam.

Tim loves writing and helping people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective, enjoys tinkering with computers, and is a die-hard gadget guy, especially when it comes to cell phones :-) When he's not writing another article, he's probably binge-watching Suites or Breaking Bad, (again). To learn more about Tim, click here.