Don’t Get Tricked by These Steam Card Scams

Steam is an online game platform where you can purchase, download, and even create video games. Learn about the popular Steam gift card scams and how you can safeguard your digital wallet — and identity.
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Steam is the largest cross-platform video game distribution service and the single best platform for PC gaming, according to PC Mag and Reddit users.[1] Its software client lets you purchase and manage games, engage in its community hub, sell your video game creations, and share mods. The main purpose of Steam is to allow streamlined access and management of a diverse array of games for players to enjoy.

Unfortunately, Steam gamers must take caution against scammers who participate in Steam gift card scams. Some of the red flags for spotting a Steam scam include social engineering tactics like using urgent language, impersonating an authority figure, or offering empty promises in return for gift card codes. Since there are cases of scammers forcing targeted victims to buy Steam wallet gift cards, non-Steam users should also be aware of these Steam card scams.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of various types of Steam card scams to look out for, tips to keep yourself safe online, and how to protect yourself with the best identity theft protection services.

In this article
9 Steam scams to watch out for
Is it safe to install Steam and download games online?
How to protect against Steam scams
What to do if someone scams you on Steam
Steam scams FAQs
Bottom line: Don’t get burned by Steam gift card scams

9 Steam scams to watch out for

There are several types of Steam card scams to watch out for, ranging from fake PayPal invoice scams to romance scams. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions the public that only scammers will tell you to buy a gift card and give them the numbers on the back of it.[2] While keeping this in mind, it’s important to identify types of Steam gift card scams to avoid them.

Please be aware that this is not an exhaustive list, as scammers are constantly on their toes and discovering new and unique ways to scam their targeted victims.

1. Steam gift card and fake PayPal invoice scam

This type of Steam card scam occurs when a fraudster deliberately creates falsified PayPal invoices and sends them to their target victim via a phishing email, which may appear to come directly from PayPal. Scammers may or may not promise compensation via a Steam gift card. Alternatively, they may trick recipients into sharing Steam card activation codes with the promise of repayment via PayPal.

2. Steam gift card and Steam wallet trade scam

In this scam, fraudsters with fake Steam profiles deceive users into trade, gift, or market transactions with no intention of fulfilling their promises in a deal. Scammers may also promise to make payments via Steam wallet codes or other digital gift cards to complete a trade only to provide fake codes, initiate gift card chargebacks, and use stolen credit cards to purchase Steam gift cards.

3. Steam phishing emails and bogus offer scams

Scammers hijack Steam accounts by impersonating Steam, usually through phishing emails, and even offer bogus discounts or promotions as bait. Once the victim opens the email and gets tricked into clicking on a malicious phishing link, cybercriminals can steal your password, card information, and personally identifiable information (PII) to use your account and make unauthorized purchases. They can use your PII to steal your identity and commit fraud crimes too. It’s important to safeguard against this to prevent identity theft.

4. Steam gift card and fake businesses scam

Fraudsters impersonate a business or authoritative agency like the IRS and use a social engineering technique called smishing. This is when they send a fraudulent SMS text message informing the recipient that they have an account issue. They ask the recipient to purchase a Steam gift card and share their PIN and information to resolve their account problem. Afterward, they may sell the Steam card itself or buy items with it and sell them online.

5. Fake Steam administrator or tech support scam

With this type of scam, someone impersonates Steam Support and offers to help their unsuspected victim fix their computer’s issue in exchange for a Steam card. They may also pose as a Steam administrator, stating that their Steam account has shut down and the only way to recover their account is by paying a fee with their Steam wallet.

They may also send unsolicited messages from Discord or other chat systems and lure victims into sharing their account and password details. For safety measures, Steam advises its users to visit the Steam Support website directly for any assistance at https://help.steampowered.com.

6. Steam gift card and romance scams

Sugar daddy sites and other dating or social media sites are some places where scammers find their victims. In this romance scam, the “sugar daddies” pretend to develop a romantic relationship with their victim until they’ve built an emotional connection and trust. Then the romance scammers manipulate the victim to purchase a Steam gift card by pretending it’s needed for an emergency, financial assistance, or any other compelling reason. However, the victim has no idea that the relationship was a ruse for financial exploitation.

7. Steam gift card and fake TeamSpeak error scams

Fraudsters can add victims on Steam after playing one or more games with them and acting friendly. After some time, the faux friend asks you to chat via TeamSpeak until you join the server. After finally joining, you receive an error message with a link indicating that you need to update TeamSpeak or your sound drivers. After you click on the link, the scammer can hijack your account and steal your information.

8. Steam gift card and job offer scams

A fraudster adds a person on Steam and pitches them a job offer (with pay) to work for a fake gambling site as a moderator or a coder. Then, after you log into the Steam site using Valve’s real Steam API, the fraudster convinces you to deposit something. They bait you by adding fake items to their inventory site and asking you to withdraw them. But then, the scammer requires a “first-time deposit.” After making a deposit, there’s no job and no items to withdraw.

9. Steam gift card and fake screenshot scams

In this type of scam, cybercriminals deceive users into downloading a file that looks like a screenshot. They bait you to click on a phishing link in a comment or PM with stories like “Congratulations, you won a prize. Click on the image for your gift.” The link that it leads you to looks very similar to other popular image hosting sites like https://prntscr.com, but it turns out to be a malicious link.

Is it safe to install Steam and download games online?

Steam is one of the best websites to install Steam Client and download games online. The platform encrypts all internet traffic by employing HTTPS on its website to safeguard personally identifiable information and credit card details.

Steam takes security seriously by informing its users of account security recommendations, such as enabling two-factor authentication (2FA), in an effort to combat account hijacking and other cybercriminal activities.[3] Steam asks users to take caution when clicking on phishing links and to take note that all of their official logins are done via the following domains:

Moreover, Steam recommends its users watch out for potentially malicious files in the following formats as part of game “mods” since they may contain malware that steals your Steam account login information. These formats include:

  • .exe (executable)
  • .scr (Windows screensaver)
  • .dll (dynamic link libraries)
  • .bat (batch)

How to protect against Steam scams

Now that you’re aware of nine Steam scams to watch out for, it’s easier to spot red flags and prevent identity theft or financial losses. Always keep in mind that gift cards are meant for gifting and not for compensation purposes, despite what scammers may tell you. Be sure to take a proactive approach with security measures, not only to prevent Steam gift card scams but also to safeguard against gift card scams in general.

Take a look at our list of tips and security recommendations to stay safe online.

Don’t click suspicious links

Avoid clicking on links sent by strangers and links you are urged to click on immediately, even if a friend or family member tells you to. If it appears that someone you know sent the link, get in touch with them directly to confirm. Make sure that the link starts with https:// rather than http:// to ensure internet traffic is encrypted; never enter personal or sensitive information on an http website.

Always verify that the link you are clicking on is legitimate and has no misspellings that look similar to the actual domain name. For example, scammers may employ a technique called typosquatting to make a website appear like the legitimate one, e.g., Google with a capital “i” instead of an "l." Type the website link in the URL bar rather than clicking on the link. You can also check the URL to see if it’s malicious on Virus Total.

Create strong passwords

Create strong passwords that are at least eight characters in length. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack. You can add complexity to your password with special characters like “!” or “#,” for example.

Password best practices recommend that you do not:

  • use passwords that are easy to guess, like “123456” or “password.”
  • recycle passwords from other accounts since a malicious actor can easily gain access to your Steam account after discovering your password from another account.
  • use password hints or change passwords frequently.

Enable two-factor authentication

Always enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to add another layer of security when you’re online. This can be done with a text message (SMS), email, authenticator app, USB security key (YubiKey), or biometric (e.g., fingerprint or facial recognition) method. An authenticator app is often a better option than a text message or email alone. Beware that if someone has access to your devices that contain your mobile number, email, or authenticator app, you can lose access to your account. If possible, keep backup codes in a safe place like a secure password manager.

Use a secure password manager

A secure password manager is an excellent way to safely store passwords, user account information, backup codes, and other sensitive information like credit card data. We strongly recommend employing one of the best password managers to create, store, and manage your passwords.

Invest in identity theft protection

Consider investing in top-notch identity theft protection to protect your digital identity and ensure that your sensitive information hasn't been stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases or commit crimes. These services offer identity theft monitoring and assistance should you fall victim to an identity theft crime.

Adjust your privacy settings

Don’t publicly expose personal information scammers could potentially use to gain access to your Steam account or even use against you in blackmail schemes. You can safeguard your information by checking your privacy settings in Steam and adjusting them to ensure personal information is kept private.

Always verify the identity of the person or organization

Verify that the person or organization claiming to represent Steam is legitimate. You can do this by going to the Steam website and typing https://store.steampowered.com or through a Google search. Then click on Support in the footer to contact Steam Support directly for assistance.

Be wary of urgent messaging and other high-pressure tactics

Stay on guard against anyone who pressures you to purchase a Steam gift card or to send them your Steam card activation codes. Often, fraudsters use social engineering tactics like creating a false sense of urgency to coerce you to do something they want you to do using fear tactics, fabricated emergencies, and promising substantial rewards in return. Avoid falling prey to this.

Be skeptical about offers that seem too good to be true

As the old adage goes, “Anything that is too good to be true usually is.” Avoid unsolicited messages and offers promising large returns in exchange for your Steam gift card or Steam gift card purchases.

Don’t disclose personal information

Never disclose personal information to strangers who contact you out of the blue in a chat room, on a Discord server, on a dating site, or anywhere else on the internet, especially if it involves sensitive information like credit card data. This information can be used to commit identity theft fraud and to steal your account information.

Always question the legitimacy of unsolicited communications, including messages, links, or offers

Stay suspicious of any unsolicited communications and offers via a direct message, text, email, comment, chat room, Discord server, or anywhere else on the internet. These are typically bait strategies that scammers use to entice you to click on their malicious links. Be wary of phishing strategies.

Report suspicious activity

Contact Steam Support and report any suspicious activity immediately, such as suspicious logins or unsolicited messages from individuals sending phishing links, to name just a couple of examples. This not only helps you but also helps safeguard the Steam community as well. 

Steam Support advises that any claim that you’ve been "accidentally" or "falsely reported" for fraud or any other infraction is, in fact, a scam. Alternatively, if you’ve fallen victim to an identity theft crime, report fraud to the FTC.

What to do if someone scams you on Steam

If someone scams you on Steam, Steam Support advises you to use the built-in Report feature and follow their recommended steps.

  1. Go to the profile of the scammer.
  2. Click on the ... drop-down, which you’ll see at the top right of the page.
  3. Select Report Player.
  4. Choose the violation and follow the steps to submit the report.

Alternatively, if you’ve been scammed outside of Steam, you should report it to the platform where the scammer communicated with you and block all communication with them.

Steam scams FAQs


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What is a Steam card, and what is a Steam card used for?

A Steam card is a gift card that is redeemable on Steam and can be used to purchase games, hardware, apps, soundtracks, or in-game items, including earning points.


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Why are Steam card scams so popular?

Steam card scams are so popular because the Steam platform has over 100 million monthly active users. This makes it an attractive platform for scammers to search for lucrative gains.


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Why would a scammer ask for a Steam card?

A scammer would ask for a Steam card since it’s easy to sell a Steam gift card in marketplaces outside of Steam, and it’s redeemable on Steam as well.


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Can Steam cards be turned into cash?

No, but they can be sold for cash or exchanged for other items outside of Steam.

Bottom line: Don’t get burned by Steam gift card scams

There is a wide array of Steam card scams, such as those that involve fabricated PayPal invoices, phishing emails, the impersonation of a business, fake job offers, and more. Live and breathe these top strategies listed for how to stay safe online. Knowing how to spot the red flags that indicate a Steam scam is taking place and ways to prevent them with security measures is crucial to avoid falling prey to a financial crime or identity theft.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from becoming an identity theft victim with the best identity theft protection services.

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Author Details
Mars is a cybersecurity professional and writer based in California. Currently pursuing a B.S. in Cybersecurity, he serves as an Advisory Board Member for WEBGAP, specializing in browser isolation. With an interest in OSINT, ethical hacking, and threat intelligence, Mars enjoys writing security content and has experience as a Security Researcher, Cybersecurity Analyst (WEBGAP), and Editor-in-chief (Secjuice).

Citations

[1] PC Mag Steam Review

[2] Avoiding and Reporting Gift Card Scams by the FTC 

[3] Steam Support Account Security Recommendations