It starts like this. You’re sipping your morning coffee in a meeting, and suddenly a text with a tone of urgency pops in — a message from your CEO. It’s a bit unusual, a request for you to purchase several Apple gift cards for client gifts. The CEO is in a meeting all day, and it’s urgent. You don’t want to disappoint, right?
Hold that thought. Before you rush out the door, let’s talk about a sneaky scam that’s been making the rounds — a scam that turns well-meaning employees into unwitting accomplices.
The “CEO Apple Gift Card Scam” is as cunning as it is simple. Scammers impersonate high-ranking company officials, sending emails or texts to employees with an “urgent” request to buy gift cards for various reasons.
The scammer will often pressure the employee to act quickly and keep the request confidential. Once the gift cards are purchased, the scammer asks for the card numbers and PINs, making off with potentially thousands of dollars before the employee realizes they’ve been duped.
How I almost got duped by this scam
Now, let’s talk about how I almost got duped by this scam. As a reminder, I’ve covered technology and online scams for the better part of two decades and nearly ran out the door because the spoofed number matched the cell phone number of the CEO. After all, I am the CyberGuy and often asked about tech gifts and Apple products. It made perfect sense.
Fortunately, I was not far from the CEO’s office when I received the bizarre yet believable request you see below. Aside from enjoying thoroughly putting the scammer through hoops to get my compliance, the scam was foiled when our CEO’s assistant said I was the fifth person that morning to get a similar text request.
Other people have made the trip to the local Apple retail store to comply unknowingly. In fact, Apple is aware of the problem and is taking steps to protect customers who may find themselves at an Apple Store about to shell out a couple of grand on quickly purchased gift cards.
We reached out to Apple, and this is the statement they provided:
“Apple works closely with retailers, law enforcement, and gift card enablers to identify and prevent gift card scams, as well as provide warnings directly to consumers through in-store signage and on gift card packaging to remind them not to share the number on the back of the card with other people.”
So, how can you avoid falling for this trap? Let’s walk through a few key steps to keep you and your company’s finances safe.
Verify, verify, verify. Always verify any unusual requests, especially those involving money or sensitive information. A quick phone call or a face-to-face conversation with the person making the request can save you from a costly mistake.
Look for red flags. Does the phone number match? Or does their email address look off by a character or two if you received the request from your inbox? Are there typos or oddly phrased sentences? These are red flags. Scammers often use spoofed emails that resemble a legitimate address, hoping you won’t notice the difference.
Don’t share the numbers on the back side of the gift card with anyone you are not familiar with. Scammers can use those numbers to empty the card’s balance before you can report it to Apple or the authorities.
Keep a skeptical eye. Gift cards for client gifts? That’s not exactly standard corporate gifting procedure. If something feels off, it probably is. Trust your gut.
Educate your team. Spread the word about this scam. The more people know about it, the less likely they are to fall for it. Consider regular training sessions on cybersecurity and current scam trends.
Implement verification protocols. Set up a system for verifying unusual requests. This might include a multi-step verification process for financial transactions or a designated point person for such requests.
Thousands of hardworking individuals fall prey to these scams every year. It’s not about being naive; it’s about being human. We want to do well in our jobs, be helpful to others, and sometimes that eagerness can make us vulnerable.
To report a scam that involves Apple Gift Cards, App Store & iTunes Gift Cards, or Apple Store Gift Cards, you can contact Apple at 800-275-2273 and mention “gift cards” when you hear the prompt or contact Apple Support online.
In the digital age, where impersonal scams are rampant, a little human connection can go a long way. So, the next time you get an urgent request from the “CEO,” make a cup of coffee, walk over, and have a chat. It’s good for security, and hey, it’s good for strengthening relationships.
Remember, in the world of cybersecurity, a healthy dose of skepticism isn’t cynicism—it’s your best line of defense. Stay vigilant, stay informed, make yourself resilient against attackers, and let’s keep the scammers at bay, one busted-up scam at a time.
Have you ever encountered a situation at work that seemed slightly off, but you felt compelled to act quickly due to perceived urgency? Share your experience with us, and let us know how you resolved it or what you would do differently now after learning about such scams by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact
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