CAUGHT! Scammer tries to pull off online gift card scam on Viacom18 counsel - fails miserably

Anil Lale, the general counsel at Viacom18, received a WhatsApp text message from a scammer impersonating a senior leader of the company and tried to pull off a gift card scam. However, the scammer was not prepared for the response.

| Updated on: Oct 24 2023, 14:35 IST
gift card scam
Know what happened when the general counsel of Viacom18 received a WhatsApp text from a scammer pretending to be a senior leader of the company. (Pexels)
gift card scam
Know what happened when the general counsel of Viacom18 received a WhatsApp text from a scammer pretending to be a senior leader of the company. (Pexels)

Cyber crimes are at an all-time high. As per data released by Delhi Police, more than 25000 cyber fraud cases have been filed till August 2023, marking a 212 percent increase compared to the previous year's 8000 registered cases in the same period. The scammers are also getting increasingly audacious, even starting their crime sprees on social media apps to catch victims in their comfort zones. Recently, a scammer tried to pull off an online gift card scam against the general counsel of Viacom18, a media company. However, he was not prepared for the way the head of the legal division caught him in the act.

Anil Lale, the general counsel of Viacom18, shared the details of the incident on a LinkedIn post along with a screenshot of the entire conversation with the scammer. He said, “Had a very interesting conversation with a scammer today who was impersonating a senior leader of our organisation and seeking immediate assistance in purchasing gift cards for a client. Unfortunately, the scammer blocked me before I could finish the conversation”.

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Scammer tries his luck against the general counsel

The scammer attempted to pull off a typical gift card scam on Lale. For the unaware, a gift card scam is where scammers trick victims into purchasing online gift cards and sharing the card's code or PIN with them. Usually, scammers pretend to be tech support workers, security agents, and other people of authority to fool the victim.

In this case, the scammer pretended to be a senior leader of Viacom18. The conversation started with the scammer saying, “Hello Anil Lale please get back to me as soon as you get my text, thanks” from an international number adding he needed the general counsel to get something done urgently.

Upon asking about the task, the scammer said, “I'm in a conference meeting can't talk now would give you a call when I'm done. And we need to provide our clients with some gift cards and I want you to handle this discreetly for me till I'm done here”.

This message in itself raises several red flags, considering this was sent by a senior leader. The first is the lack of proper grammar and punctuation. Additionally, no senior leader would ask the general counsel for such tasks. On top of that, doing this “discreetly” raises several red flags.

The general counsel probed the scammer further asking from where should he buy the gift cards. The cybercriminal replied, “Want You to confirm if we can purchase Apple Store cards online at And register Then search Apple Store code and purchase 3 quantities of 5000inr then send me screenshots once done so that I can disburse them here okay”.

This was enough for the general counsel to deduce that it was indeed a scammer trying his luck. Lale replied, “While I am doing that, would you like me to order some Sushi for you aswell?”, signifying the bizarre ask made by the scammer.

The cybercriminal, no wiser to the sarcastic comment made by Lale, proceeded to say that he would just like the gift cards to be sent out. But the general counsel had enough of it. He proceeded to ask whether the guy was joking and added, “Trying to scam the Head of Legal of a company with your petty stuff”.

The scammer went silent after this.

Know about online gift card scams

These scams are pretty prevalent in the US and other Western countries, but recently they have also emerged in India. The gift cards are convenient as they leave no digital footprints behind and the scammer can run away with the money without a trace. However, these scams are also easy to protect yourself from. Follow the steps given below to ensure you never fall for such a scam.

1. Always cross-question the person when you get a WhatsApp message or a call from an unknown number. This will drive impersonators away.

2. Never make a transaction, be it through online banking, UPI, or via e-gift cards to someone when asked by them under such circumstances.

3. Even if you have to make a gift card payment to someone you trust, only pick sources that you know. Make sure to keep a receipt of the transaction as well as send the codes in written form.

4. If such scammers share a link, never click on it.

5. If the scammer pretends to be someone else calling from a different number, make sure to call their usual number to verify their identity.

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First Published Date: 24 Oct, 14:06 IST