Let’s Review: You Will Never Have To Send $6K In iTunes Gift Cards To The IRS

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

When you owe money to the Internal Revenue Service, they don’t call you up. Instead, they send letters through the mail. Yet people send thousands of dollars every day to scammers in faraway call centers who claim to represent the federal government. If you don’t know that the call is a scam, it can be super scary to be threatened with seven years in prison over the phone.

A woman in Idaho wants everyone to use her story as a cautionary tale, and recounted what happened to TV station KTVB. She received a phone message in a robotic voice telling her that she owed the IRS a large sum of money, and called the number back.

“I should know better,” admitted the victim, a single mother who immigrated to the United States from Japan 14 years ago. “But by the time my head was already frozen, and scared and feared because they threatened about my kids and all that.”

giftcardsThe fake IRS instructed her to withdraw almost $6,000 worth of cash from the bank, then go to a store and purchase iTunes and Toys-R-Us gift cards. She was to read the gift card numbers to them over the phone.

Why gift cards? They’re portable, accessible, and easy to re-sell, but one reason why scammers have shifted to gift cards is that wire transfer companies are on to them.

A few months ago, NPR’s Planet Mone interviewed an employee at MoneyGram whose job it is to explain to scam victims, mid-scam, what is happening to them.

An almost-victim explained that she felt like she was “in a trance” and fearful of the fake IRS, and holding two phones that offered her two different realities.

In summary: the IRS doesn’t leave threatening voice mails, and they don’t want your gift cards. Tell your friends and family. Perhaps soon, stores that sell gift cards will begin flagging people making massive gift card purchases in cash.

Woman loses thousands in IRS scam [KTVB]