Apple, feds issue warning about flurry of iTunes gift card scams; one victim lost $31,000

There's a new warning on Apple's iTunes gift card page. (Click for site)
There’s a new warning on Apple’s iTunes gift card page. (Click for site)

iTunes gift cards have become a common tool for online scammers to wring money out of victims, according to new warnings from Apple and U.S. federal authorities.  One agency received a deluge of complaints during a recent weekend, including word from one victim who lost $31,000 in a recent iTunes payment scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The problem has grown so bad that Apple recently posted a notice on its gift card page, the agency said.

“iTunes Gift Cards are solely for the purchase of goods and services on the iTunes Store and App Store. Should you receive a request for payment using iTunes Gift Cards outside of iTunes and the App Store please report it at,” the notice on Apple’s site says.

Apple did not immediately return a request for comment.

Criminals convince victims to buy iTunes gift cards, either online or in a store, and then email the secret code so the value can be drained – or traded.

“As soon as you put money on a card and share the code with (scammers), the money’s gone for good,” the FTC warned in a blog post.

Karen S. Hobbs, an attorney with Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said scammers like iTunes gift cards because they are “cash-like” in a few critical ways. It’s pretty hard to reverse an iTunes payment — unlike a credit card payment — and movement of iTunes dollars can be virtually untraceable.

With any fraud scheme — from sweetheart scams to fake IRS tax bill scams — a criminal’s biggest challenge is getting paid.  Wire service payments are their preferring method, because wire payments are generally impossible to reverse.  But apparently consumers are slowly heeding warnings about wire services, leading criminals to turn to other payment methods.

iTunes gift cards aren’t the only alternate money system scammers have adopted.  The FTC warns that they are using Amazon gift cards, PayPal, reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit, and Vanilla, too.

Of course, criminals aren’t using the iTunes gift cards to feed their voracious appetite for music. They sell the cards on thriving gift card black markets, where iTunes cards — all cards, really – cman sell for pennies on the dollar.  Still, that gives criminals a great way to receive funds from victims and quickly cash the out.

“I think most people are surprised about the black market for iTunes cards,” Hobbs said.

It seems a bit far-fetched that consumers would believe the IRS, or any government agency, would ask for payment via iTunes “bucks.”  But clearly, people are falling for the tactic.

“In some cases, (criminals) stay on the phone (with victims) while they go to the store and buy the gift cards, talk them through it,” Hobbs said.

The trend is international, too.  Here’s a story about a similar tactic – a criminal tricks a victim into believing they have a big tax bill that must be paid immediately — working in the United Kingdom: a victim payment:

“One victim is revealed to have purchased over 15 iTunes gift cards from Argos – each one valued at £100 – and handing over the codes to scammers on the phone. Another victim shelled out an incredible £15,000 on iTunes gift cards after receiving a cold call, the codes for which went straight to criminals,” wrote on Friday.
One reason these scams might be working: Apple and iTunes are both recognizable brands, and criminals may be borrowing a bit of their “halo effect” to gain credibility.

So the big message the agency is trying to deliver is simple:

“If you’re not shopping at the iTunes store, you shouldn’t be paying with an iTunes gift card,” the FTC says.

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About Bob Sullivan 1184 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.


  1. Last month on the 23rd I was giving a call by this scammer scammer name was Ashley Smith and some girl named Debbie they give you a call or give me a call they were saying that I was one of the chosen ones as receive a Federal grant Award of amount of 9500 and then they told me that I had to just go to Walmart and receive my gift my reward my grandson then she said but I had to come up with $250 which I from my savings I have 2600 or more and then when I go purchase it 250 of iTune gift cards there I was giving them the routing numbers and then they said okay let’s do the transactions as soon as they were doing the transactions they said everything was going good but the Fett California stay was asking for a fee of $150 when I told her oh well but I was giving her 400 so in Plaza 250 which is already 6:50 and then another 450 that’s already a thousand 5055 $50 and then I told her after I took me awhile to give her the last $400 it took me 2 weeks to think about it and then after she said the PPI was already involved the PPI as the ones that I take care of your insurance money and they will give you your funds back so I gave her another $400 worth of iTune gift cards cuz she said this is the way we started with iTune gift card so we should finish this transaction with iTune gift cards so then she said after the PPI received your money they will grant you your Grant to you and they were insured make sure you get your money so then after she said that the routing numbers were given to me the routing numbers the three of them had only six digits and then when I go to Walmart to purchase the payments of the routing number she said the numbers were not activated when I found other one activated I gave Ashley Smith another car I didn’t ask you submit told me that I had to forgot to tell me that I had to activate each routing number but do not where we will activate him for you right now you just have to pay $300 for each number so I’m a mathematic phone right there was already another 900 that’s the amount of $2,050 that I have spent on iTune gift cards but I have the receives and I have them gift cards still with me just not not the routing number that I had gave to the lady but then after I gave Walmart or call I told Walmart about what was going on Walmart didn’t really care Walmart was hanging up the phone on me more than 4 to 5 times and then iTune gift cards I gave him the report but then never responded to me or and I send them pictures of copies that there were applying me to do and then I gave them but they’ve never since then they haven’t received nothing from them I even have the Apple case number the case number is 10022 310-3799 I made the report already to what the federal federal gave me a routing number to the case and this is really really kind of hard for me to understand how this works because iTune gift cards are in fault I am I say that they are involved because they should not be selling these gift cards if they know they’re mostly all acts of scams because people do get hurt people do get hurt in feeling ways and others too because this is not fair to others or to me this has to stop they have to do something about this before someone ends up getting hurt or someone’s in the losing their lives over something that’s not our fault it’s just that were victimized of a scammer and that’s when it all I’m asking just for my refund but iTune gift card doesn’t really give a damn about us or Walmart I need help what could I do should I just take them to court because at court I even have proof of them on my voicemail you could give me a call or call my device at 9 332-9933 1919 is you give that number or call the answer machine will pick up and when it picks up you could push start right away and then push my calling which is 4949 for my voicemail and you will be able to listen to all these scammers that were trying to hack me in to make me fall so no matter what I have no way out I was going to get scam other way or another I was having the rights of Mines my way out out of the scammers because they were not just one call it was plenty of calls from other numbers and thank you very much the other account number that I have it is 6 – 92 I repeat 629-371-9786 other routing number that I have is 877 79204 817 the fair the federal gave me these numbers for the count for the case 848 I-4 943 I gave him a little I got numbers of the people that were getting me scam calls what number is 14086 3 40568 another number that I have it is one 408 566-1515 Ashley Smith age of 28 she told me and then Katie number and that’s who I started with Kenny’s number it is it is +1-408-634-0568 I was even giving a call by designing supposed to Duncan Miller’s at first I thought it was just a trick but he said that he was dunking Miller’s and I thought I was the one from basketball the number of hairs was one two one two three four five four six eight

  2. that’s what I feel I’m I think this is your stop selling this gift cards iTune gift cards because apple has a big fault in it why does Apple have a fall in it because Apple continue selling these iTune gift card when they could just discontinue on and do something about this because people out there or getting scam at the time right now that I’m speaking and that is not a good thing to feel or to be happening to us because we heart urn our money and for us just to give it away just like that it doesn’t seem fair to me it looks like apple needs to do something about this also to the perch in the store like Walmart Walmart is a store that doesn’t really give a damn about other human beings either Apple because Apple has millions millions of dollars and there are not want to respond to my case why do they give me a case number if they do not pick up from it and send them pictures and everything about these gift card received what I haven’t have no response from them that’s why I am saying what is going on this is not a thing to do to a human being because this could lead to other kind of stuff people could get her a people could even lose their life over these kind of things of act that’s what I am saying I do not like this at all this was why iTune have a fault in this because they know the percentage of all their gift cards of iTune gift cards look at the percentage without me even being there or working there I could tell you the percentage of people being scammed by they purchasing an item gift card it is a very high percentage of a percentage of people being fraud with scammed the other 20% goes to the people that are giving the gift cards to their families that’s the only way iTune is doing supposedly good to others no it’s not it just hurting others and it’s not fair just got to stop I don’t know what to do no more I do not know how can I get my refund back I like just want is my refund and from this just to stop once and if I have to take iTune gift cards to court a little bit will be because they’re not giving a damn about me at all I even number of the lady that supposed to help me she is not responding at all she is not doing nothing the following this is the number of the person that supposed to take my case the number it is +1-877-416-4271 her voice I mean her routing number is 11 34312 name name is Angélica

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