What Are Steam Card Scams?

  • By Greg Brown
  • Jan 03, 2023

steam card scams

Gift cards are a great way to give others presents if they have run out of time or just do not know what gift to buy. Gift cards can be purchased everywhere, from grocery stores to the merchants who issue them.

Predators favor gift cards because there are fewer protections for the buyer than other forms of payment. Enticements include quick cash, and gift cards are not attached to any individual or credit account, so predators remain anonymous.

Online criminals have found a way to print money by hacking into an extensive company database and stealing activation codes and account numbers. These types of hacks are often carried out using brute force methods, malware, phishing, and social engineering. 

According to the FTC’s Consumer Protection Division, gift card scams have skyrocketed compared to recent years. In 2021, nearly 40,000 consumers reported over $148 million in stolen gift cards. A vast majority of frauds are never reported to the government, so the above numbers are just a fraction of the real danger involved.

Online predators are a growing menace, and more needs to be done. Commonalities exist for every online predator and its victims. Crooks find children and younger adults to be an extraordinarily compliant and straightforward target.

  • As many as 500K children are targeted daily
  • Only 15% of parents are aware of what their kids are doing online
  • Over 80% of child sex crimes start with social media

In 2022, video gamers in the United States under eighteen made up 24% of the entire gaming audience.

Why Are Steam Card Scams So Popular?

Steam online is by far one of the most popular online gaming sites, with 62.6 million users playing at any given time. Steam’s platform boasts over 120 million active users, with a catalog of 50,000 games which increases by an average of over 20% per year. 

Millions of dollars of Steam gift cards are purchased each year, making the card a favorite among predators. Several reasons are evident why scammers prefer a Steam Gift Card

  • Due to Steam’s immense popularity, predators can sell the card for quick cash, and gift cards are nearly untraceable.
  • The average age of a Steam member is between 20 and 29 years old, with the 30 to 39-year-old group being the second largest. Younger age members are highly receptive to online romance opportunities and, therefore, scams of all scenarios. Predators find it easier to establish relationships with Steam users because they can easily impersonate a love interest, unlike other gift card scams, where predators need to pose as a relative or friend.
  • Criminals can launder stolen cash easily by purchasing games and merchandise and then reselling the items to an unsuspecting gamer.
  • Predators find it easy to play long-cons with Steam members. A vital aspect of conning people out of their money is building trust with the victim. Steam gamers want to build online relationships with other players to advance in the game. These relationships are the perfect opportunity for online vultures. 

Red Flags

Modern-day predators have become experts at creating scenarios meant to exploit the vulnerabilities of their intended victims, especially the youngest. There is no absolute way to identify scammers on the other end of the line. However, there are red flags and warning signs to watch out for.

  • The first and most significant red flag; is if the person on the other end of the line asks for payment by a gift card. 
  • The easiest way for predators to gain personal information about their victims is to communicate outside the Steam platform. Scammers may also want you to click on an outside link.
  • Online vultures never want to answer personal questions and tend to have generic profiles. Crooks will instead ask their victims as many questions as you will answer. Criminals need this information to steal identities and accounts.
  • One of the most common red flags for Steam Gift Cards and similar is the predator asking for financial assistance to purchase merchandise not game related. 
  • Scammers use stressful events to persuade a victim 1) the transaction must happen ASAP, or the deal is off; 2) no other payment method will work; 3) You need the money, 4) banking account details must be disclosed to get the final payment.

Scams and Fraud Involving Steam Gift Cards

There are several ways fraudsters use Steam Gift Cards as part of their overall scheme. The skyrocketing rise of online fraud has caused gift cards from major companies to be treated the same as credit cards and other deferred payment options.

how to avoid steam card scams

The Covid pandemic has created a wave of predators benefitting from the shutdown using Romance Scams. The con is easy; predators cannot see their victim due to the disease, and young adults on the Steam platform are specifically targeted. Covid-19 related emergencies crop up quickly, and the scammer needs money for their relatives or food.

Catfishing scams are another prevalent way predators steal money using Steam Gift Cards. Crooks set up the catfishing profile on Facebook or other social media. The profile is a crook looking for a romantic relationship and wants to bond or a sympathy play. Either way, the profile is targeted at a younger audience, and the need for money is always present.

Awareness is Your Best Line of Defense

The single best defense against gift card scams is awareness of the assault. Most people have no idea Microsoft does not call to let you know your computer is infected. However, it is amazing the number of people that will accept the call and believe it is a Microsoft technician. 

The FTC offers a wealth of resources for consumers dealing with the aftermath of a gift card scam. 

Adding multi-factor authentication is another valid way to protect your account and activation codes. Steam gift card scams have become extremely complex because of all the notoriety the scams are attracting. However, if your platform becomes a nightmare, contact Steam support first. Technicians at Steam have encountered most of the scams dealing with their gift cards and have solid solutions to counteract the predators.

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