Be­ware iTunes scam

In­creased traf­fick­ing in gift cards

Sunshine Coast Daily - - LIFE | TRENDING - NICK WHIGHAM

AUS­TRALIANS are be­ing scammed out of hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars by fraud­sters who de­mand pay­ment via iTunes gift cards and of­ten tar­get older cit­i­zens, the ACCC warns.

This year alone, vic­tims have been tricked out of more than half a mil­lion dol­lars by mak­ing gift cards pay­ments to fraud­sters who of­ten cold call their tar­gets, ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s top con­sumer watch­dog.

Re­ports to the ACCC’s Scamwatch show 1236 peo­ple lost nearly $540,000 to date in 2017 as author­i­ties warn that traf­fick­ing in gift cards is a grow­ing tac­tic used by crim­i­nals. In the 2015-16 fi­nan­cial year losses from this type of scam were about $480,000.

Cairns woman Maree, 50, fell vic­tim to a sur­pris­ingly con­vinc­ing swin­dle. She re­ceived a call last week from some­one claim­ing to be from the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice telling her she had $4821.10 in un­paid taxes and there was a war­rant out for her ar­rest.

“I’d been a bit naughty on my taxes, I hadn’t done it for some years,” she told

Maree was plan­ning on leav­ing the coun­try on a univer­sity trip and was told she would be ar­rested at the bor­der.

“My whole thing was I’m leav­ing the coun­try to­mor­row and I have to fix this now,” she said.

They kept her on the line as she drove to the near­est shopping mall as she be­gan wor­ry­ing about how she was go­ing to come up with the money.

“I was gonna ring the bank and ex­tend the mort­gage on my house for $4000, that was all the thoughts go­ing through my head, how am I go­ing to get $4000?”

She could only come up with $800 on the spot and was told she could pay with a “gov­ern­ment ap­proved voucher” or via iTunes gift cards.

“So of course I asked for a gov­ern­ment ap­proved voucher and they don’t have it so I said iTunes. I’ve never bought iTunes in my bloody life.”

Af­ter fork­ing out $800 for the Ap­ple gift cards, she scratched them and gave the codes to per­son on the phone.

While she thought it was strange that she couldn’t pay her debt back slowly over time, the alarm bells were drowned out by the fear of miss­ing her up­com­ing trip. She had booked some ac­com­mo­da­tion on Airbnb and be­lieves the scam­mers knew she was plan­ning to go over­seas.

“I think some­how they knew,” she said. “The other thing is they knew I was on a dis­abil­ity pen­sion. That’s not some­thing I advertise at all.”

As un­likely as it sounds, Maree’s is not an un­com­mon story.

“Scam­mers are in­creas­ingly get­ting their vic­tims to pay with iTunes gift cards as they can quickly on-sell them and pocket the money,” ACCC deputy chair­woman Delia Rickard said.

Any­one ask­ing for pay­ment via gift cards should be an im­me­di­ate red flag as no le­git­i­mate busi­ness would seek pay­ment in such a way.


DIF­FER­ENT TUNE: Scam­mers are in­creas­ingly tar­get­ing older Aus­tralians and de­mand­ing pay­ment in iTunes gift cards.

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