When cybersecurity researcher Christian Haschek recently decided to sell his $500 Apple Store gift card, he had no clue he’d be dealing with a serial scammer.
Shortly after posting a thread on Reddit, Haschek was contacted by a potential buyer that offered to purchase the voucher for the equivalent of $380 in Bitcoin.
Having struggled to find a buyer for four years, the security researcher was happy to accept the deal as he thought it would be more difficult for the buyer to swindle him using Bitcoin.
The scammer promised he’d pay once he has received and confirmed the authenticity of the gift card, refusing to transfer any funds prior to that for fear of getting scammed. Unsuspecting, Haschek agreed to these terms and sent all necessary details to the fake buyer.
However, when the swindler received the gift card along with the rest of the information he requested, things quickly took a turn for the worse.
The scammer first claimed the physical cards never arrived and then proceeded to start deleting the accounts he used to contact Haschek, ignoring all of his messages in the meanwhile.
This is when the security researcher realized he’s being scammed and decided to take initiative to recover his stolen voucher.
After a quick online check-up, Haschek discovered the fraudster was using the same usernames on other platforms, which allowed him to dig more information about the scammer, including the names of his friends and family.
Desperate to reclaim his gift card, Haschek found both the swindler’s brother and mother on Facebook and approached them with the following message:
To Haschek’s surprize, ten minutes after he sent the message, the scammer was already contacting him on Reddit in panic.
The swindler not only offered to return the stolen voucher, but also begged the security researcher to “leave him alone”:
I am sorry for what I did. I am young and stupid and always in a really bad place. I ama full time student and I have no job. I contacted Apple and got a giftcard back. I can. Give you your giftcard back I have a card for $477 and one of the existing card you gave me should have the remaining balance. Please leave me alone after this I won’t do anything like this anymore I am having panic of attacks just thinking about this.
Since then, Haschek has successfully reclaimed his gift card and detailed his experience in a blog post, where he warns others to be extra careful when making similar trades online.
While the researcher was fortunate to turn the tables on his scammer, the Web is rife with far more skilled and vicious swindlers – and not all of us will have that same luck.
You can head to Haschek’s blog to read the full story.