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Paying a Debt with an iTunes Card? Sounds Like a Sad Song!

Imagine pulling up to a highway toll booth and the attendant demands that you pay right now using an Apple iTunes, Amazon or PayPal gift card. That doesn’t sound right, does it?

Of course not, and the same goes for anyone who calls you and demands immediate payment using a gift card. Scammers also demand money through prepaid reloadable money cards (such as GreenDot, MoneyPak or Vanilla), or wire transfer payments (such as MoneyGram or Western Union).

Scammers who seek payment this way are, in a sense, asking you to leave an electronic cash box on a virtual table.  Once you provide a card’s code or you wire money, you’ve given someone the key to that cash box and you probably can’t get your money back once they’ve taken it.

Never provide gift card or prepaid money card information, or wire money, to anyone you don’t personally know—even if the story sounds convincing.

The Most Common Scams

  • IRS Scams: If someone calls unexpectedly claiming he or she is with the IRS, and threatens you if you don't pay immediately, it's a criminal calling. The IRS will contact you about debts or penalties through the mail—not the phone—and won’t demand immediate payment through a money card, gift card, or wire transfer.
  • Tech Support Scams: A caller claims that somehow your computer has been identified as the source of a virus, and he or she can fix it now. By allowing the caller to remotely access your computer to “fix” the problem in exchange for immediate payment by phone, it could result in your computer’s data getting damaged or destroyed--not to mention the money you lost in the process.
  •  “Grandparent” Scams: A frantic caller will try to convince you that he or she is a relative, government official, or even defense lawyer, claiming that there’s been an accident, incident or emergency. The caller seeks immediate payment over the phone. No matter how bad or legitimate it sounds, take the time you need to check out what’s very likely a phony story.  Ask personal questions that only your loved one would know.  Try to contact other family members, a close friend, or even law enforcement to help you.

If you just provided card information or wired money and realize you may have been scammed, report it immediately.

  • If you provided card information, contact the card provider.
  • If you wired money, report suspected fraud to Western Union’s fraud hotline at 1-800-448-1492, or MoneyGram at 1-800-MONEYGRAM (1-800-666-3947).

Unfortunately, it may be too late to stop or reverse the transaction, but it is worth every effort.  You should also file a police report, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.FTC.gov.  You can also file a complaint with the Attorney’s Consumer Protection Division.

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