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Warning: This type of scam has skyrocketed, and it’s targeting Aussies

Scammers trying to cheat Aussies out of their money is nothing new – but it seems they’ve developed a taste for payment in the form of gift cards.

According to Scamwatch, Australians lost more than $5 million last year to gift card scammers, which is an uptick of 38 per cent from the year before.

And it appears iTunes gift cards are the preferred gift card of choice: 2018 saw an increase of 156 per cent in this kind of scam, accounting for $3.1 million in losses.

But Google Play, Amazon, Steam gift cards are also targets, as well as Australia Post Load & Go prepaid debit cards.

(Photo: Getty)

What’s happening?

Scammers are inventing false reasons to demand payment from unwitting victims in the form of gift cards, rather than cash.

“Scammers like to get gift cards as payment as it’s easy for them to quickly sell them on secondary markets and pocket the cash,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

In order to trick people out of their money, scammers will often play to people’s emotions and invent urgent reasons for why they need to hand over their money.

It often involves pretending to be a trusted institution – like a utility company, a government agency, or a banking or internet service.

Scammers will also attempt to tempt you into handing over your details with promises of prizes, or drive you into fear by threatening you or your privacy.

Three scams to watch out for

While there may be several scams involving gift cards circulating, the ACCC earmarked three scams in particular.

One involves impersonating the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and claiming a warrant for the victim’s arrest, and requests the victim to pay a ‘fine’ using gift cards or bitcoin.

The other involves the scammer calling the victim and pretending to be a law enforcement agency or internet provider claiming the victim’s has been hacked. The scammer claims to be able to trace the hacker by sending money from the victim’s bank account or gift card serial numbers.

Another involves tricking a victim into completing a survey that promises a gift card at the end, where the victim’s personal and banking details are required.

“If anyone asks for payment using a gift card, it is a scam, simple as that,” Rickard concluded.

Australians can report scams to the Scamwatch website.

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