New scam: Student puts $1,762 on iTunes cards to pay IRS

“Maggie Passino, 20, received a string of frantic calls on her first day of college that scared her into throwing away $1,762 in savings. She wanted to go to college, not to jail, so she paid up,” Susan Tompor reports for The Detroit Free Press. “‘They kept calling and calling and calling until I picked up,’ said Passino, a freshman at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va.”

“The man claimed to be from the Internal Revenue Service and had her name and home address. She owed back taxes and taxes for school, he said, and she needed to pay now or be arrested. ‘He said, ‘You’re going to be receiving a call from 911 and if you pick that up, you’ll be arrested,” said Passino, who is majoring in agricultural technology. Sure enough, 911 appeared on her phone,” Tompor reports. “So ultimately, she drove to a Kroger store and put her money on iTunes gift cards, just like the IRS impostor instructed.”

“Does it make sense that the IRS would tell people to drive to a Kroger and put money on iTunes gift cards to pay a tax bill?” Tompor reports. “‘I was freaked out,’ she said. ‘It was horrible. It’s the first day of classes — and everything is already in jeopardy. … They’ve got the intimidation thing down for sure.’ She put $500 on three iTunes cards and $262 on a fourth, using her debit card.”

“The IRS impostors have been dialing for your dollars since at least October 2013. Many of us hang up or just don’t answer. But the calls keep coming. And con artists do trick some people into handing over a couple thousand dollars,” Tompor reports. “Once scam victims put money on iTunes cards, they’re asked to read the 16-digit code off the back of the card and scammers can get the cash in a quick, clean, often untraceable way — and leave their victims with nothing.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If you’re not shopping at the iTunes store, you shouldn’t be paying with an iTunes gift card.

Other payment methods scammers might ask for include Amazon gift cards, PayPal, reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit, or Vanilla, or by wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram. Government offices like the IRS won’t require you to use these payment methods. If you get targeted by a scam like this, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

47 Comments

  1. How ridiculously stupid do you have to be? What a gullible fool, to an exteme level at that. Doesn’t matter that she missed her first day of college, because she’s clearly so stupid she would have failed the classes anyway.

    1. For a person that just left her parents’ home and started living independently, this falls squarely on the shoulders of her parents, and to some extent, school system that is woefully behind the technological literacy needed to survive today’s world.

      At here parents’ home, these types of calls were always fielded by her parents, so she had now way of learning of heir existence and purpose. At school, they never taught her that these types of scams existed. She may well be quite intelligent, and perhaps talented for whatever field she’s pursuing (language/literature, biology, physics, math, chemistry, whatever), but in the skills of life, she clearly lived under protection of her parents and learned very little.

  2. So here is what I did when I got a call. I went on-line and searched to see if anyone had reported similar occurrences. There were tons of examples. If I hadn’t been able to find much evidence then I would have called the IRS using the official number listed at their website.
    It’s disappointing that these scams are so common and that enough people fall for them to make it worthwhile. The kid learnt a valuable life lesson there and hopefully she will never be duped again.

      1. Actually more curious whether this is a common scam.
        My general MO is if needed check directly with the organization involved. Do not use any number or link listed in the email or message.
        These scams work enough times that there is a clear need to educate. Your comment wasn’t particularly helpful but I hope it made you feel better about yourself.

  3. Have been bombarded lately with calls purporting to come from my ISP (TalkTalk – who were massively hacked a year ago) telling me my router is sending “error messages’ so I need to log in with my computer and they will “help me”.
    I’ve had lots of fun stringing them along with noobie stuff like “oh please, I don’t know which key to press…it’s so worrying” and “What a great service for your customers”
    When I say “But where is the Start menu on my Mac? call is abruptly terminated”
    Funny dat

    1. Nice to know people do that. What’s your record? Once during my holidays I held up a scammer for over an hour for two days as we worked on the “you’ve won a prize once you’ve paid the delivery charge, taxes”.

      He was like the best of buddies by the end of the conversation, until I asked him for his business number so that I could confirm that he was a legitimate business.

      Instant hang up.

      I think they must have a “do not call” black list cause after a while, you just don’t seem to get them anymore.

      1. I’ve done it a couple of times but not for that long. Most of the scammers I talked to were getting clued into the fact they were going nowhere. All this girl had to do was ask for the guy’s supervisor’s number and any authorization (or any kind of challenge) and he would have hung up. They prefer to prey on weak people without benefit of facts and their rights.

        1. Exactly and I suspect that in this case that particular person was under stress, starting school is always a bit chaotic, a perfect time for folks like that.

          The last batch of fraud folks that have crossed my phone line have been those engaged in boiler room fraud. I don’t know how they do it, they talk non stop for 10 minutes plus before asking you for money. Waste of time if you ask me.

          Anyway, it’s not an issue that is going away unfortunately, vigilance is always required.

    2. I did this with the “Microsoft Tech” calls.
      Must have really pissed him off because he spoofed my phone number for the next couple of days. Got a number of irate call-backs.

    1. I’m sure they have a staff of psychologists at hand to attend to her emotional trauma. Come to think of it, once word gets around campus of how stupid she is she’ll probably really need therapy. And a transfer.

  4. Knowledge would have stopped this.
    How do you get knowledge?
    Usually by doing something stupid that you wouldn’t do if you knew better.
    Thereby giving you the valuable lesson to not to do it again

  5. I got a call from someone asking to speak to me, he actually used my full name. He then said “I am Detective Inspector Morse attached to Scotland Yard. What is your birthday?”. I replied “If you think I’m going to fall for that you can f**k off!”. He imidiatly hung up, the scamming bastage.

    Sad thing is some people will give their information just because the person on the other end of the line say the are someone of importance.

  6. If a college student fell for this they truly are too stupid to be attending college.

    I get calls like this I keep them on the phone as long as possible screwing with them. If I am tying them up telling them nonsense, they can’t be scamming some clueless person.

  7. When I get calls like this, (when I do answer), I choose to have fun with them. I usually state that I am Homicide Detective (make up any name – it changes every time) and demand to know who they are. Since they are calling into an active Homicide scene, they MUST know the victim and are considered material witnesses. If they fail to provide said information, they will be seen as persons of interest and quite possibly our lead suspect.

    This helps in two ways – gets them to hang up really quick – and takes me off thier lists. I dont recall getting duplicate calls.

    1. I got one of those “Microsoft” ones not too long ago that was funny. He kept telling me there was a problem with my “Microsoft” and I had to download some software to diagnose the problem. Of course, you don’t mention that you actually have a Mac or the following week you’ll be receiving calls from “Apple” about your “Apple” problem. So I asked this guy which “Microsoft” I had the problem with.

      He actually answered “the original one”. “PC Dos 1.0 or BASIC?” I asked. “Yes” he responded.

      Actually quite funny when you think about it.

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