Pensioners targeted in iTunes scam

A 74-year-old woman was fleeced of $46,000 in an iTunes gift card scam, but would have lost much more if a switched-on shopkeeper hadn’t been suspicious and contacted police on her behalf.

The Hawthorn woman is just one in a long line of people being scammed by con-artists pretending to be calling from telecommunications companies, the tax office and other government agencies requesting payment for purported debts using iTunes gift cards.

The man who called her stayed in touch with her for a week, forcing her to buy iTunes gift codes and send cash using Moneygram. He also hacked into her computer and internet banking.

The woman bought 330 gift cards before a retailer got wise, noticing how many cards she had purchased and how much money she was carrying, so he called the police.

Detective Senior Constable Cameron Mitchell called the attack ‘cruel and targeted’.

“It has been a traumatic experience for the victim and there is a message everyone can take from this,” he said.

An elderly woman, Jenni Woodroffe, was swindled out of $4000 over three days by a similar scam, this one claiming to be from the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

The 80-year-old, hearing-impaired pensioner from Perth said the call sounded plausible, with two men claiming she owed a Centrelink debt and would lose her pension if she did not settle the debt with iTunes vouchers.

Another elderly man had lost $20,000 to a similar scam earlier this month.

“We’ve seen a number of reports come into us this year. Over $90,000 has been lost through these iTunes scams and it seems to be the new way of transferring money out of the country,” said Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard.

“Regardless of the reason for payment, the scam follows a certain formula: The victim receives a call instilling panic and urgency to make a payment by purchasing iTunes gift cards from the nearest retailer,” warns iTunes creator, Apple.

“After the cards have been purchased, the victim is asked to pay by sharing the 16-digit code on the back of the card with the caller over the phone.

“Please do not ever provide the numbers on the back of the card to someone you do not know,” said Mr Hillyard.

It is important to remember that no government department or major company would ever ask for payment using iTunes gift cards. If you ever receive a call of this nature, immediately report it to police and Scamwatch.

Have you ever received any such calls? Do you know of anyone who has?

Related articles:
Beware of tax scam emails and SMS
New scam aimed at pensioners
New scams fool tech-savvy users

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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