Avoiding Darkweb Scams

Last Updated on May 27, 2024 by Arnav Sharma

In today’s digital age, scammers have become increasingly sophisticated, targeting unsuspecting victims through various schemes. One of the most prevalent methods is the gift card scam. Understanding how these scams work can help you avoid falling prey to these fraudulent tactics.

The Appeal of Gift Cards

Gift cards are a convenient way to make payments and give gifts. However, they have also become a favorite tool for scammers. Criminals prefer gift cards because they are easily accessible, can be quickly converted to cash, and are difficult to trace. Scammers often request gift cards from popular brands like Apple iTunes, Google Play, and Walmart, knowing these cards are readily available at numerous retailers.

How Gift Card Scams Work

Initial Contact

The scam typically begins with a call, email, text message, or even a social media message. The sender might pose as a government agency, such as the Australian Tax Office (ATO), a utility company, or a familiar business. They may also impersonate a friend or family member in distress.

Creating Urgency

The scammer will create a sense of urgency, claiming that you owe money for taxes, parking tickets, or utility bills. They may threaten you with fines, arrest, or other legal actions unless you make an immediate payment. This pressure is designed to make you act quickly without thinking.

The Request for Gift Cards

Instead of asking for a bank transfer or credit card payment, the scammer will instruct you to buy gift cards from a specific store. They may even specify the brand and amount. Once you purchase the gift cards, you are asked to provide the codes from the back of the card.

Draining the Funds

Once the scammer has the gift card codes, they drain the funds almost instantly. These thieves may use the codes to make purchases or sell them on the gift card market for a profit. By the time the victim realizes it’s a scam, the money is long gone.

Why Scammers Want Gift Cards

Gift cards offer anonymity and quick access to funds, making them an ideal choice for scammers. Unlike bank transactions, gift card purchases do not require personal information, making it harder to trace the thief. Additionally, once the funds are transferred from the card, it is nearly impossible to get the money back.

How to Avoid Gift Card Scams

Recognize the Red Flags

  1. Urgent Requests: Be wary of urgent requests for payment via gift cards. Legitimate businesses and government agencies will never demand immediate payment this way.
  2. Unusual Payment Methods: If someone asks you to pay with gift cards, it’s a scam. No legitimate entity uses gift cards for payments.
  3. Phishing Emails and Messages: Be cautious of unsolicited emails or messages requesting personal details or payments.

Verify the Sender

If you receive a suspicious request, verify the sender’s identity. Contact the business, government entity, or person directly using official contact information, not the details provided in the message.

Protect Your Information

Never share gift card codes, PINs, or personal information with unknown callers or email senders. Store gift cards in a safe place until you are ready to use them.

What to Do If You’re Targeted

Report the Scam

If you suspect you have been targeted by a gift card scam, report it immediately. In Australia, you can contact the ACCC’s Scamwatch or your local police department. Informing the retailer and the gift card issuer can also help put a freeze on the card.

Seek Assistance

If you have already paid a scammer, reach out to your bank or credit card company to see if they can stop the transaction. Unfortunately, retrieving the funds from a gift card scam can be challenging, but prompt action may help.

Gift card scams are a growing concern, with scammers continuously devising new ways to trick consumers. By staying informed and vigilant, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes. Remember, if it seems suspicious or too urgent, take a step back and verify before making any payment.


Q: How might a victim be tricked into a fraud scheme?

A: A scammer with a gift card may say they are from a business or government agency and demand payment using gift cards as payment.

Q: What method do scammers often use to defraud victims using gift cards?

A: Scammers often use gift cards as payment methods, particularly iTunes gift cards or Apple gift cards.

Q: What should you do if someone demands a payment using gift cards?

A: Never demand payment using gift cards; no legitimate business or government agency will ever ask for this.

Q: What is a common warning sign of a gift card scam?

A: A common warning sign is when someone you know asks you to make a payment or refund using gift cards.

Q: How can enforcement agencies help in gift card fraud cases?

A: Law enforcement and the ACCC can warn the public about these scams and take action against fraudsters.

Q: What should you learn about gift cards to avoid being scammed?

A: Learn what gift card numbers on the back look like and understand that legitimate agencies will never demand payment in this form.

Q: What agencies or service providers might scammers impersonate in a gift card fraud scheme?

A: Scammers may impersonate the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or other service providers to trick victims into buying gift cards.

Q: How can a bot be involved in a gift card fraud scheme?

A: A bot may be used to automate the process of contacting victims and convincing them to prepay using gift cards.

Q: What advice can help you avoid becoming a fraud victim involving gift cards?

A: Always be cautious if asked to make payments or provide card details, and remember that legitimate businesses will never demand payment via gift cards.

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