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30 Jun 2017
Never buy iTunes gift cards over the phone

Scammers seem to be making more and more money by tricking unsuspecting victims to purchase gift cards from iTunes, Apple’s online store for videos and music.

Ironically, most of these conmen pose as Microsoft tech support. Known as Microsoft phone scammers, these callers try to collect money from their victims through iTunes gift cards. In March, we explained how these scammers work. Unfortunately, new reports have kept coming in to our help desk since then.  And those reports  share several characteristics:

  • Victims typically receive a cold call from an English speaker with an Indian accent pretending to be Microsoft. The victims are told that their computer has been infected by a virus.
  • The scammers instill fear or alarm in their victims, who are told that they risk running up high costs if they don’t act now to remedy the infection. After all, there may be third parties affected by the virus infection and these parties could very well sue them for damages, the scammer says.
  • Naturally, the victim doesn’t want to take that risk and therefore does as they are told. The victims later explain that they felt a lot of pressure. Doing what the caller tells them to do seemed the easiest way to get rid of that pressure.
  • The Microsoft phone scammers use several tricks to gain remote access to their victims’ computer. They then tell their victims to log in their internet banking account. Using a few more tricks, the scammers will try to channel funds from these accounts.
  • In some cases, for example when the victim’s balance is too low, the scammers fail to succeed. They then move on to plan B:
  • The scammers transfer money to the victim’s account (this money often comes from another victim), and the victim is told to go to a bookstore, supermarket or any other store which sells iTunes gift cards for iTunes. In some cases, victims are ordered to purchase gift cards worth thousands of euros in total.
  • Once the victims have returned home, the Microsoft phone scammer calls again for the codes on the card, which allows them to collect the money.

Please remember

  • Microsoft never calls its customers.
  • Hang up the phone immediately if someone poses as Microsoft.
  • Don’t enter into any discussion. These scammers are expert liars and have the gift of the gab. They can keep you on the phone for quite some time and try to convince you, for example, that that they are calling in connection with a global cyber attack reported extensively by the international media. This example has been cited by Dutch police.
  • Remember that Microsoft and Apple are two rival companies. They are giants in the field. Why would Microsoft want you to pay by gift cards issued by its main rival?

Related story: Why Microsoft scammers prefer iTunes gift cards

Information relating to these scams provided by Apple