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Steam card scams: How can you avoid them?

Steam is one of the largest gaming platforms today. Gamers love Steam for its ease of use, large repository of games, and convenient way to manage purchases and gifts. If you’re a gamer on Steam, you’ve likely used a Steam gift card at some point to purchase your games or in-game items. But if you’ve received an offer for Steam wallet codes or other Steam gift card codes from strangers, you could be getting yourself into a gift card scam.

Steam card scams: How can you avoid them?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

What is a Steam card scam?

A Steam card scam is when scammers use Steam gift cards to acquire someone’s money, account information, or other Steam cards. These scams target gamers who use the Steam platform frequently or those with public profiles, which are easier to harvest information from.

Some scams also go after your Steam wallet funds. Once the scammers have gained access to your Steam wallet details, they can use your personal information (such as email addresses and passwords) to target you with more severe and damaging technical scams and cyberattacks.

How do Steam card scams work?

Attackers can use several methods to pull off Steam gift card scams. A Steam gift card scam usually has one of the following goals:

  • Scamming a user for legitimately bought Steam wallet codes or gift cards.
  • Scamming a user for cash by selling fake Steam gift cards or Steam card activation codes.
  • Scamming a user for their credit card data information via Steam card purchases.

Because Steam is a trusted platform, Steam card scams prey on the trust and importance that users associate with the platform. Like all scams, Steam gift card scams are dangerous — if they’re successful, you’ll be more vulnerable to other attacks, because scammers can use your compromised personal information and financial details for further exploitation.

Why would a scammer want a Steam card?

But why would scammers target victims via Steam gift card scams? Aside from the pre-established trust and ease of access, scams using Steam cards are appealing to criminals because of the following:

  • Fewer legal protections. Steam cards lack the consumer protections that credit cards offer, so it’s harder to recover funds or charge back.
  • Less efficient tracking. You can exchange physical Steam cards in places outside the Steam platform, making the cards difficult to trace if they’re used in scams.
  • An easy method to move around stolen cash. Scammers can use Steam cards for money laundering, enabling them to convert their ill-gotten gains into legitimate funds.
  • No turnaround time for processing. Steam gift cards are processed automatically to a Steam account once redeemed, which makes them appealing for scammers.

Why are Steam card scams on the rise?

Steam wallet gift cards are easy to use, come in different monetary denominations, and are relatively anonymous depending on how you’ve purchased them. Once a scammer gets a Steam gift card code from you, there’s little you can do to reclaim the funds you’ve used to buy it or use the Steam gift card for yourself.

Furthermore, your Steam account can be a potential attack vector if a scammer gets a hold of your account details. Depending on how detailed your Steam profile is, they can reverse-engineer a more sophisticated cyberattack based on the data they’ve stolen from your Steam profile.

Main types of Steam gift card scams

Because you can buy, sell, and use Steam cards in several ways, scammers have different approaches for trapping you in a scam:

Steam card exchange scams

In a Steam card exchange scam, a scammer will suggest exchanging Steam gift cards with you, offering a card of higher value. They typically justify these offers by claiming it’s difficult for them to redeem their card in their region or that Steam errors are causing redemption issues.

However, once you provide your Steam gift card, you’ll find out that the card you received in exchange is either fake or already used. The scammer, on the other hand, receives a fully working Steam card, which they can use as they wish.

Steam card phishing emails

Another popular scam involves an attacker pretending to be from Steam support and sending you an email. In the email, the scammer might ask for your Steam account details to activate a card for you on your account. This scam aims to access your Steam account or other personal data, which the criminals can then use in different schemes.

Steam card phishing emails are dangerous because they can lead to other attacks like identity theft. Phishing email links may also lead to malicious websites that can install malware and viruses into your computer, making your device more vulnerable to threats.

Scammers use phishing emails for fraudulent activity on other platforms as well. They apply the phishing technique in Venmo scams, Zelle scams, and Amazon scams.

Scam involving your Steam gift card wallet

Some scammers target your Steam wallet by offering to buy Steam cards, often promising discounts or promotions for repeat purchases. While the first few transactions may appear legitimate, they are meant to establish trust until the scammer can deceive you into giving them money. Steam gift card wallet scams are particularly effective if the scammer knows you regularly buy Steam gift cards.

Steam gift card purchase scam

Scammers may pretend to be legitimate sources of Steam gift cards and codes. These schemes aim to acquire as much money from the victim as possible, ensuring the payment cannot be refunded or traced.

While costly, these scams are relatively easy to detect and avoid. In most cases, scammers will try to gain access to their target’s finances through other methods like social engineering, often using Steam gift card purchases as their initial entry point.

Steam gift card scam with your PayPal account

Some scammers use Steam gift card scams to target the finances of their victims, typically their PayPal accounts. Since many Steam users use PayPal to buy Steam gift cards and codes, scammers may attempt to exploit this by distributing fake Steam gift cards.

This PayPal scam works when the scammer sends you what appears to be a Steam gift card and asks for compensation or payment via PayPal. After you send them the money, they cut off all communication. PayPal typically doesn’t reimburse transactions like these, making it the preferred avenue for scammers to con their victims.

Impersonating Steam administrators

Scammers may pretend to be Steam administrators or support to target their victims. They may promise Steam gift cards or other Steam codes in exchange for your account information. This type of scam compromises your Steam account and can lead to more severe cyberattacks.

To avoid these scams, keep your communications with Steam support inside the Steam platform and verify the messages you receive in your email accounts. Steam staff will never ask for your account information or payment to assist you with any customer concerns.

Steam trade scams

Because Steam allows you to gift games to other users, some scammers exploit this feature to scam users out of Steam gift cards. This scam works when a scammer promises to exchange games with you, usually by asking you to provide them with a Steam gift card for a specific game.

However, once you give them the gift card, the scammer may cut off communication or send you a game you didn’t ask for. While it’s possible to appeal these scams to Steam, it’s unlikely you’ll be compensated for your scammed Steam gift card.

Ways to spot gift card scams

While scammers can use plenty of ways to try and con you into a Steam gift card scam, you can use several methods to identify such scams:

  • The urgency of the transaction. Scammers will attempt to rush you through a scam transaction since it decreases the likelihood that you’ll check if it’s a scam.
  • Grammatical errors. Phishing emails and other messages from scammers will likely contain grammatical errors.
  • Refusing to have documentation. A Steam gift card purchase without an official receipt or any other way to trace the transaction is more likely to be a scam.
  • Poor card quality. Physical Steam gift cards must always be wrapped in their original packaging with their foil backs untouched. If the packaging of the Steam card is damaged, the card is most likely fake or has already been used.
  • Asking for unnecessary details. A scammer might ask you for detailed information about your Steam account or how you verify your account logins, which official Steam staff never do.

What can you do if you are a victim of a Steam card scam?

If you’ve fallen victim to a Steam card scam or you suspect that you’ve been scammed, the most important thing to do is change your account details, such as emails and passwords, that may have been compromised when you got scammed. This measure is also crucial for credit and debit cards because scammers can further use stolen credit card details in other schemes.

The second thing you should do is to report the scam immediately to Steam support. This way you limit the potential reach of a scammer to target other Steam users.

Lastly, adopt a safety-first approach to using Steam and other platforms that have gift cards. Treat these places like any store or marketplace. While they may be legitimate, there’s always the chance that bad actors are waiting to take advantage of your trust in them.

Tips on how to avoid Steam card scams

Steam gift card scams show no signs of slowing down, with scammers looking for newer ways to target victims. Here are some tips that can help you reduce the likelihood of falling prey to such scams in the future:

  • Always check the authenticity of whatever’s being sent to you. Whether it’s an email, an offer, a promotion, or anything Steam-related, always check if it comes from a legitimate source.
  • Never give anyone your Steam account information. Treat your Steam account the way you would treat your bank accounts, especially if you’ve bought a lot of games or have a full wallet.
  • Buy Steam gift cards from legitimate sources. Steam already offers ways to load your Steam account or buy games in-platform. Physical cards should always be purchased at retail stores.
  • Be careful with your payment methods. Never give away your card number or other details about your finances outside of what’s required to buy Steam gift cards.
  • Keep track of your finances. Checking your accounts statement every month can be an excellent way to ensure there are no unauthorized charges related to Steam or other platforms.
  • Use security software and other similar solutions. You can use a VPN to improve your overall online privacy. You should also protect your accounts with methods like two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA). You may also use solutions like NordVPN’s Threat Protection to reduce your risk for landing on dangerous websites where you could accidentally infect your device with malware.

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