US iTunes gift certificates bought with stolen cards

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That $100 iTunes card selling for less than $50 seems tempting, but have you ever stopped and thought about how it can get so cheap?

The fact is that US iTunes music store wholesale price is $0.70 per song. Anyone selling an iTunes for less than 70% face value is automatically losing money (especially when you consider eBay and PayPal fees reduce profits by about 10%)... unless they got the card for free of course. True, that some folks get iTunes gift certificates as unwanted gifts and seek to get rid of them on eBay. But is it likely that a seller located outside of the US got 10 of them at the same time as gifts? Probably not. Most likely the cards were purchased from a stolen credit card! Please see this forum thread here.

Why is it important to check the country that the seller is from?

Apple does not sell US iTunes gift certificates in other countries due to content licensing restrictions. An iTunes gift certificate must first be purchased in a US retail store or if it's purchased online from Apple, a US credit card or PayPal account is needed. How is it possible then that a non-US seller can sell tens or hundreds of iTunes codes at once?

The risks of buying stolen iTunes:

Once the owner of the stolen credit card reports the theft to his or her credit card company and requests a chargeback, the following can happen:

If you have not yet redeemed the iTunes card, the number you received can be canceled by Apple.
If you have already redeemed the iTunes card, Apple can suspend your iTunes store account. The amount you have left in your account is no longer accessible unless you work it out with Apple customer support.

In either case you will have to file a chargeback with your credit card company or file a PayPal dispute to get your money back. You can also possibly lose your iTunes account. The person who owns the stolen credit card may not realize that his/her card is stolen until several days or weeks later, and by the time it's reported to the credit card company, eBay buyers will have usually already left positive feedback for the stolen iTunes.

What to look for:

  • Sellers selling iTunes gift certificates for less than 75% of the face value and selling them in bulk (check their feedback history!)
  • Sellers located outside of the United States. But although if the seller's location says "United States" it does not guarantee he or she is in the country:
    • Any eBay account can be hacked and stolen. Signs of a hacked account:
      • A seller does not have feedback for months or years and suddenly started receiving lots and lots of feedback all on iTunes sales. Hackers usually target inactive accounts so that the real account owner doesn't notice that their account is stolen
    • eBay does not verify the address that you registered with. A person can register for a US account from anywhere in the world. Only a user's PayPal account verifies the country
  • A new seller registered on eBay with a US address but has only been selling iTunes gift certificates and no physical items were bought or sold (such as books, electronics).
  • When paying by PayPal, check for 1. in what country is their PayPal account verified and 2. how long ago was that PayPal account set up
  • A seller who built a "strong" feedback history by buying or selling $0.01 items. Fraudulent sellers will collude with other fraudsters to build up each others' feedback in this very quick and very cheap way. In other cases, the buyer and seller are the same person!
iTunes gift certificates continue to be one of the most heavily stolen gift certificates sold on eBay. Buy US iTunes from verified sellers whose PayPal accounts are in the United States and has had transactions of physical items within the US and you'll have the best possible protection against fraud.
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