Scammers target college students: Pay IRS debt in iTunes cards or else – and they do


iTunes cards are great for gifts or buying music, but if someone calls you and tells you the IRS needs you to buy hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth to pay off delinquent taxes, don’t. It’s a scam – one that has particularly targeted college students.

And if you’re thinking no college student is foolish enough to believe some cold caller demanding an iTunes payoff, you’re wrong again. Most recently, a freshman at Virginia Tech fell for it. Reporters in Dallas, Texas are catching wind of it. And even the IRS is tweeting out warnings about it.


The Detroit Free Press reports Maggie Passino, 20, first ignored the calls, but repeated rings wore her down. When she answered, a man claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service told her she owed back taxes and taxes for school – and if she didn’t pay them, she would be arrested.

“He said,  ‘You’re going to be receiving a call from 911 and if you pick that up, you’ll be arrested,'” Passino told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m a college student. Being arrested for a college student looks really terrible, so I was really worried. That can affect your financial aid … really mess up your life.”

Perhaps the tip-off should’ve come when the caller told her how to pay off the debt: with $1,762 in iTunes gift cards.

But Passino apparently didn’t pause. She told the paper she drove to a nearby Kroger grocery store and purchased three gift cards for $500 and $262 on a fourth using her debit card. “I was freaked out,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “It was horrible. It’s the first day of classes — and everything is already in jeopardy. … They’ve got the intimidation thing down for sure.”

The Free Press reports that once the targets buy the gift cards, the scammers ask their victims to read off the 16-digit codes on back allowing the scammer to cash the cards to accounts online.

On Sunday, the IRS tweeted that they don’t operate that way. No payments due by iTunes card, no arrest threats.


The IRS has previously urged the public to keep watch for phone call scams that require them to send money to avoid prison time.

Be on the lookout for other preposterous scams as well. This summer, for example, the Jupiter police warned not to empty your bank account for callers who say they’re holding a relative captive and demand cash.

Of course, not everyone falls for the scam, and at least one woman turned the game around, guilting a caller with a story of her own that made the caller so remorseful for trying to take her money that he confessed.

Read more at the Detroit Free Press.

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