Fraudsters “Tune Up” Old Scams

October 30, 2017

Better Business Bureau® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning consumers of new spins on some classic schemes. By now, most people have heard about the phone scam, where scammers claiming to be with the IRS call people saying they owe money either due to penalties or unpaid taxes and threaten them with arrest if they don’t make an immediate payment. BBB is now receiving reports that some fraudsters are coercing people to pay them in iTunes – and Amazon - gift cards.

“The reason fraudsters are urging people to pay with gift cards is because they are virtually untraceable,” said Susan Adams Loyd, President and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “If the intended victim gives away the 16-digit code on the back of these gift cards – or any other – they will lose whatever money has been loaded onto them.”

Last year, reports to BBB Scam Tracker alerted BBB to multiple cases of fraudsters pressuring consumers in our area to pay them with iTunes gift cards. One of these cases involved an advance fee loan scheme and another was a version of the IRS scam, where the caller claimed to be seeking unpaid taxes on college tuition. The victim was told they would be arrested unless an immediate payment was made. In that case, the unknown caller had information as far as what school the student attended and which year they had graduated.

BBB reminds students – former and current – that tuition fees are not taxed by the government. In fact, you may be able to deduct qualified education expenses paid during the year for yourself, your spouse or dependents on your yearly taxes. BBB also reminds the public that no government agency will ever:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will they call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Seek or demand payment through gift cards or reloadable debit cards.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying a debt.
  • Ask for bank account or credit/debit card numbers over the phone.