Police warn over Apple gift card scam as fraudsters fleece victims

Police warn over Apple gift card scam as fraudsters fleece well-intentioned victims with con that puts your cash in their hands in seconds

  • Apple gifts cards are an increasingly popular method of payment for scammers 

Police are warning UK residents to remain vigilant against a sophisticated Apple gift card scam that fraudsters use to fleece well-intentioned victims.

Con artists impersonate a friend or family member from your email list and ask you to send a gift card over as a matter of urgency – putting cash you can’t retrieve in their hands in seconds.

The online thieves gain access to a person’s email address and then write to all of their contacts asking for help  – using information from the account and replicating the manner in which they speak.

The next step in the scam is to create a sense of urgency and a reason to purchase them high-value gift cards.

One person who spoke to Mail Online anonymously said they were contacted by their elderly neighbour and were eager to help them.

Her neighbour, who had recently had a heart operation, wrote to the victim saying that they were in hospital but wanted to buy their niece a birthday present.

Con artists impersonate a friend or family member from your email list and ask you to send a gift card over as a matter of urgency

Police are warning UK residents to remain vigilant against a sophisticated scam that fraudsters use to fleece well-intentioned victims into sending over Apple gift cards

The woman who received the email regularly helps her neighbour, so the request didn’t seem out of the ordinary and was written ‘mimicking’ her usual tone.

She believes the scammers read through emails on the account to learn as much information as they could – to make their own impersonation seem realistic.

In further emails the scammer, pretending to be the elderly woman, said it was their niece’s birthday today and that they urgently needed to get gift cards but had been unable to do so in hospital.

The victim said if their ‘neighbour’ had immediately requested money through gift cards in their first email they would have been very wary. However they exchanged multiple emails before she sent over any money.

The scammer specifically asked for two £100 Apple gift cards from Tesco’s website.

The victim, who was at work at the time, agreed to send the gift cards and even received a reply on if whether they wanted the gift card to be signed with ‘aunt’ or ‘aunty’.

Shortly after purchasing the card Tesco’s fraud team called and said they have seen a surge in scams on Apple gift cards and would try to cancel the transaction. The victim contacted her bank, who said they would also try and assist.

A screenshot of an email the victim received from the scammer pretending to be her elderly neighbour

Apple’s website gives users a detailed warning about scams and how to avoid them

After becoming aware she had been scammed, the victim was emailed again from the account pretending to be her elderly neighbour – this time asking for £400.

This time the woman pressed for more details about her neighbour’s hospital stay. She received a reply saying she had been at a nearby hospital for two weeks.

When the victim told the scammer they had seen their neighbour in the car park just one week ago – they stopped replying. 

The victim, who is yet to have their money refunded,  also discovered her own mother had also been contacted by the same email account – but fortunately they deleted it.

Tesco’s website comes with a safety warning before purchasing Apple gift cards, it reads: ‘Keep your money safe. If you’re ever asked to pay debt or bills with gift cards or to buy gift cards on someone else’s behalf, it could be a scam. 

‘Find out how to keep your money safe with tips and advice from Take Five at takefive-stopfraud.org.uk.’

Police in North Yorkshire issued a warning earlier this year after reports of a similar Apple gift card scam.

A spokesperson said: ‘The person who had purportedly sent the email had been hacked and the message had been sent to everyone in their personal address book.’

The force urged others who receive a message from friends or family asking for a gift card to not respond.

Apple themselves also have issued a warning, they say: ‘A string of scams are taking place asking people to make payments over the phone for things such as taxes, hospital bills, bail money, debt collection, and utility bills.

Tesco’s website makes you agree to the terms and conditions after reading a warning about buying gift cards on behalf of someone else

‘The scams are committed using many methods, including gift cards.

‘As the fraudsters are sometimes requesting codes from Apple Gift Cards, App Store & iTunes Gift Cards, or Apple Store Gift Cards, we want to make sure our customers are aware of these scams.’

Apple said that Gift Card scams tend to follow the same formula.

It typically involves a phone call to the victim ‘instilling panic and urgency’ to make a payment using an Apple Gift Card.

Once you’ve purchased the card, you’ll be asked to pay by sharing the code on the back. But it’s a fraudulent request designed to steal your money.

Apple said you must never provide the numbers on the back of a Gift Card to someone you don’t know.

As soon as you provide the numbers to the scammers, they’ll likely spend the funds before you can contact Apple or the police.

‘If you are not purchasing an item from Apple, do not make a payment with an Apple Gift Card,’ Apple advised.

‘There’s no other instance in which you’ll be asked to make a payment with either of these gift cards.

‘Do not provide the numbers on the back of the gift card to anyone that you don’t know.

‘Immediately report potential scams to your local police department as well as the FTC.’

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