The iTunes scam is one of the latest online frauds. Cases of people losing anything from ¢4,000 to $46,000 have been reported in Australia and a number of the targeted victims have been elderly women.
How does this MLM scam work? Use of the phone to request payment for services by buying iTune gift cards and giving out the gift card numbers over the phone to the scammer. There are number of these phone scams operating in relation to payments for bills for utilities, hospital services and debt collection. Getting the payment via iTunes vouchers is the current scam.
How do they do it?
Usually the target gets a phone call claiming that they must pay for a specific service by buying iTune gift cards. They will be pushed into buying them by being threatened with criminal charges if they don’t do it. The victim will then get another call asking for the 16-digit code on the gift cards. Apple has sent out repeated warnings about these scams, but has told the media that by the time they are alerted by the victim, the gift card has been redeemed or sold on to others. The fact that a fraudster doesn’t need the physical card to redeem its value, makes it an easy scam to pull off. This is something that Apple should deal with.
Why scammers choose iTunes gift cards
The use of iTunes gift cards does seem peculiar viewed from a distance. But to the scammer it is very sensible. These gift cards are untraceable and can be redeemed instantly ans also is the perfect MLM product for a ponzi scema. Other similar avenues of fraud are becoming more secure and are locking the scammers out.
Apple claims that it is very difficult to make the retailers aware of this scam and how it operates, although it has tried to get them to put up notices by the gift card displays warning that they can be used as a payment mechanism.
It does seem incredible that people are convinced by this scam, but we must remember that they have a very clever script to persuade people that this is the authorised way to pay, and they use veiled threats to ensure the person complies. The Australian authorities report that from May 2017 to 23rd July they received 465 reports from consumers about the iTunes scam. This number equals a theft of $359,000 in that two-month period.
In Australia, the scammers have even posed as collecting taxes from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and claiming that the target must pay any tax debt with iTunes gift cards. The ATO received 8,962 reports about scam tax debt payment calls. Vulnerable people who perhaps don’t understand the tax system, and who are afraid of being prosecuted for non-payment are the scammers targets. There are many ways to find people who fit this profile online.
One answer is more public awareness campaigns in places where consumers of all ages can see them. Of course, this is costly, which is why it doesn’t happen very often. Also, once a campaign starts to run and get traction, the scammers move on to another scheme. It is hard to keep up with them.
It is essential that we are all vigilant about calls soliciting payment. If you are in any doubt about a MLM person’s authenticity, check with the company or service they claim to represent. Authentic callers will accept your right to check; scammers will probably get abusive. And, if you think you have received a ‘scam’ call – do report it. Making the authorities aware is one way to help prevent there being more victims.