Police are urging the public to be aware of fraudsters who have been tricking people into making payments using iTunes gift cards.
North Yorkshire Police is warning the public, especially the elderly, under the banner of #StayTunedToFraud.
Offenders have been contacting victims, claiming to be from well-known organisations including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), then tricking victims into making payments using the gift cards.
Read more: Cases of alleged fraud in Yorkshire double in first half of 2018
Police say they are using the method because gift cards can be easily redeemed and sold on - the fraudsters do not need the physical card to redeem the value and will instead use tactics to persuade victims to purchase gift cards in large amounts and read out the serial code on the back over the phone.
This problem is not just linked to iTunes gift cards and more recently, Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, has seen a spike in fraudsters requesting Steam Cards as a way to gain upfront fees from unsuspecting victims.
Read more: Public image of North Yorkshire may be 'Heartbeat' but police face modern threats, says new chief constable
In some cases fraudsters may refer to gift cards, including App Store and iTunes gift cards as ‘payment cards’ as a way to explain or legitimise this payment method.
A report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) shows that of the thousands of reports made to Action Fraud, in 32 per cent of cases, the victims were aged between 60 and 74.
The report also shows that between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2018, victims reported losing a total of £6,561,380 to this fraud, with an average of £579 per person.
Action Fraud is now working with retailers including Argos to help raise the profile of this fraud type with the general public.
Argos has now put a £200 limit on the amount of iTunes vouchers one person can buy at a time.
Staff in stores have also received training on how to spot the signs of this fraud to prevent customers from falling victim and posters bearing protect advice have been placed in stores to warn customers to spot the signs.
Companies and campaign groups including Apple have also been working with retailers and HMRC to display guidance and signage in selected stores which mirrors the advice on their support page.
Commenting on the national campaign which is being led by Action Fraud, Detective Inspector Jon Hodgeon, Head of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Fraud and Economic Crime Unit said: “Fraudsters use a range of tactics to target people, especially the elderly and vulnerable.
“A common trick they use is to convince victims into making payments for taxes, bills and fees using gift cards or vouchers.
“Remember, no genuine organisation will ask you to make payments such as these using iTunes Gift Cards, or any other type of voucher.
“If you receive a call of this nature hang up the phone and end the conversation.
“If you are still in doubt, contact someone you know and trust such as relative, friend or neighbour for a second opinion.”
How to protect yourself from gift card fraudsters:
Gift cards, including App Store and iTunes gift cards can only be used to purchase goods and services from the retailer named on the card. Never provide the numbers on the back of iTunes Gift Cards to someone you don’t know.
No genuine organisation will ask you to pay taxes, bills or fees using iTunes Gift Cards, or any other type of voucher. If you’re contacted by anyone that asks you to do this, you’re very likely the target of a scam.
Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information in case it’s a scam. Even if someone knows your basic details (such as your name and address), it doesn’t mean they are genuine.
Genuine banks or other trusted organisations will not pressure you to make a financial transaction on the spot.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.