Identified Scam:

Apple Gift Card Scam: Red Flags of Imposters After Your Money

Whether it's the IRS, Social Security office, or a relative, be careful with anyone asking for payment via an Apple gift card—it's likely a scam.
Updated 8 July 2021
Apple Gift Card Scam: Red Flags of Imposters After Your Money
Identified Scam:
Key Finding

Imposters ask for payment via Apple gift cards to pay off fake debts, pay for items, and more.

Key Risk

You lose the money you spend on the gift cards, and the scammer will immediately use the gift card balance.

Sections on this page
  1. What Are Apple Gift Card Scams?
  2. How to Beat and Avoid the Apple Gift Card Scam
  3. Examples of Apple Gift Card Scams
  4. Fallen for the Apple Gift Card Scam?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

The biggest red flag of an Apple gift card scam is someone asking for payment via an Apple gift card—it's as simple as that. Legitimate companies and people won't ask for payment via gift cards, so if you encounter this situation, you can be sure someone is trying to scam you.

What Are Apple Gift Card Scams?

In Apple gift card scams, someone calls you pretending to be someone that they are not. Their goal is to convince you to buy an Apple gift card and provide the gift card code over the phone for payment. After the scammer has the gift card code, they can use it to spend the Apple gift card funds on apps, in-app purchases, Apple store products, or they may resell the gift card number.

Here is how the scam works.

You Receive a Call Demanding Immediate Payment for Something

You receive a call from someone claiming an urgent need for you to pay for something. They can impersonate anyone, including a:

  • Relative
  • Government representative (e.g., the IRS)
  • Utility company (e.g., your electricity provider)

They will tell you that the only way for you to pay them is with an Apple gift card and will be pushy (and even threatening) when talking to you.

Example Call from IRS Impersonator

This is the IRS. We are calling to let you know you have an outstanding balance of $250 on your account which is due immediately. To avoid punishment, such as jail time, you must pay this right away. 

You can pay today by buying Apple gift cards totalling $250 and providing us with the gift card number and PIN. Once you do this your account will be cleared.

The Caller Tells You to Purchase an Apple Gift Card

The caller will urge you to immediately purchase an Apple gift card from your nearest retailer, such as a convenience store or electronics retailer. This can include a request for a specific type of Apple gift card, which may include an App Store & iTunes gift card or an Apple Store gift card.

You Share the Gift Card Number with Them

After you purchase the Apple gift card(s), the scammer will ask you to share the card number(s) and code(s) on the back of the gift card(s) over the phone. They won’t ask you to mail the gift card, as this will give you time to cancel the gift card and you’ll have their address.

Once you share the gift card number with them, they’ll use the balance almost immediately, giving you no time to cancel the gift card. There’ll be no way to get your money back or contact the scammer.

How to Beat and Avoid the Apple Gift Card Scam

The most effective way for you to beat and avoid the Apple gift card scam is to:

  • Never make payment using Apple gift cards to someone you don’t know.
  • Never provide your Apple gift card numbers to someone you don’t know.

Stay Aware to Beat the Scam

If someone asks you to pay for something by putting money on a gift card, they’re trying to scam you. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):

  • No real business or government agency will ever insist you pay them with a gift card.
  • Anyone who demands to be paid with a gift card is a scammer.

Legitimate organizations will never call you and demand that you settle debts over the phone. This includes government entities such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA), as well as local utility companies. They also do not accept Apple gift cards as a form of payment.

Keep in mind Apple’s purchase and redemption rules—you can only use Apple gift cards and App Store & iTunes gift cards to purchase goods and services from Apple. For example:

You can only redeem an Apple Store gift card at the Apple online store or at an Apple retail store. Therefore, if a caller tells you that you can pay for any goods, overdue bills, or government payments via an Apple gift card, it’s a scam.

Examples of Apple Gift Card Scams

There are a few common scenarios when a scammer is attempting to persuade you to fall for the Apple gift card scam.

In one example, someone calls you impersonating the IRS or SSA and tells you that you need to pay your taxes or a fine using an Apple gift card—this is a scam. They say you must make immediate payment to settle owed taxes or an outstanding fine using an Apple gift card.

Listen to one person's call with a scammer below.

In another example, you receive a call from someone stating that they represent a technical support team. Keep in mind that they may say that they are calling from Apple, but they may also use another well-known company name, such as Microsoft. They will tell you that there’s something wrong with your computer during the call, such as a virus or another issue. They will offer to fix the problem but claim only to accept payment via an Apple or iTunes gift card.

In some cases, the scammer will call or message you pretending to be your friend or family member in an emergency. They will claim that they need financial assistance for an emergency, and they ask you to buy an Apple gift card right away to help them.

Scammers may even impersonate a representative from a utility company, threatening to shut off your services unless you provide them with valid gift card numbers.

Fallen for the Apple Gift Card Scam?

If you believe you're the victim of a scam involving Apple gift cards, App Store & iTunes gift cards, or Apple Store gift cards, call Apple at 800-275-2273 (U.S.) and say "gift cards" when prompted.

Once you connect with an operator, ask them if the money is still on the Apple gift card. If the gift card funds have not been used, ask the operator to freeze the funds. Then, explain to the operator that you believe you are a victim of a scam, and they will let you know if they can issue you a new gift card or if you have another option to get your money back.

In addition to contacting Apple, you should report the Apple gift card scam immediately to the authorities, including:

  • Your local police
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the IRS accept payment via Apple gift cards?

No. No government agency, including the IRS and the Social Security Administration, accepts payment for bills, fines, or other money owed in Apple gift cards (or any type of gift card). 

Can I get my money back if I've fallen victim to an Apple gift card scam?

It's unlikely that you'll get your money back after being scammed, but if you act quickly enough, you may be able to contact Apple and freeze the gift card so the scammer can't use it. Unfortunately, if the scammer has already used the balance on the gift card, you're unlikely to get your money back.

What does the scammer need to use the gift card balance?

For the scam to work, the scammer needs you to give them the Apple gift card number and PIN located on the back of the card. Without these numbers, the scammer won't be able to access the funds. 

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