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Robbing the Xbox vault: a $10 million gift card scam

July 8, 2021 – The Xbox gift card came with a string of 25 letters and numbers. The digits, known as a 5×5 code, were sent in an email, but they were no different from the numbers and letters etched onto the gift cards hanging off tall racks near the checkout aisle at CVS or Target, arrayed in a Rubik’s Cube of colors.

These stores sell them on behalf of Apple, Applebee’s, Disney, Domino’s, and pretty much every other company you can think of, including Microsoft Corp., which markets its cards under the Xbox brand. The cards themselves, of course, are worthless, but each 5×5 code corresponds to a dollar amount. In this case the code, DD9J9-MXXXC-3Y6XD-3QH2C-PWDWZ, was worth $15 toward the purchase of anything that Microsoft sold online—video games, Office and Windows software, Lenovo laptops, Sonos speakers, and the like.

In this way, gift cards can be thought of as a sort of digital currency, not unlike Bitcoin. The comparison may seem silly, given that gift cards date to the bygone era of Blockbuster Video, but today there are online marketplaces where anyone can trade gift card codes for Bitcoin and then turn the spoils into cash. These markets inevitably attract speculators and, because trades can be conducted anonymously, scammers. Bloomberg News reports. | READ MORE