Warning: This new IRS scam cost a college student $1,762 in savings

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Warning: This new IRS scam cost a college student $1,762 in savings
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Thieves posing as the IRS are finding new ways to con people out of money pretty much every day — and part of the reason why is because so many people continue to fall for these viscous scams!

Beware of this new IRS iTunes scam

According to a report from USAToday, 20-year-old Maggie Passino received several frantic phone calls on her first day of college from someone claiming to be with the IRS.

She ignored the first call to her cell phone, but when she started to receive call after call, she finally answered.

‘They kept calling and calling and calling until I picked up,’ Passino told USAToday.

The caller, who said he was with the IRS, had Passino’s name and home address. He told her she owed ‘back taxes and taxes for school’ and that if she didn’t pay him immediately, 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,” said Passino.

Then 911 appeared on her phone.

Finally, after threats that she would be arrested and worried about her financial aid and other things, Passino went to a nearby Kroger and put all of her savings on an iTunes gift card — which is what the scammer told her to do.

Read more: This text message scam will steal your banking information

Intimidation tactics allow thieves to carry out scams that don’t make sense

When you think about it, why would the IRS ask someone to pay taxes in the form of an iTunes gift card?

‘I was freaked out,’ Passino said. ‘It was horrible. It’s the first day of classes — and everything is already in jeopardy.’

So she put $500 on three separate iTunes cards and $262 on a fourth, using her debit card.

And this is far from an isolated incident — many people have fallen for the same, or similar type of, scam and lost thousands of dollars.

These IRS imposters arely on consumers to be caught off guard — not having time to think about the logistics and whether the whole thing makes sense — which causes them to react quickly and hand over cash in some way, shape or form.

With the iTunes gift card, or other gift card, scam, the thieves ask you to put money on the card and then read them the 16-digit code off the back. That allows them to quickly access the cash, in most cases, in a way that’s untraceable. 

The victims are then left with nothing.

Read more: Another IRS phone scam to watch out for

How to avoid this type of scam

According to the IRS website, if you get a call about any of the following, hang up immediately!

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
     
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
     
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
     
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
     
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you still aren’t sure if it’s a scam or not, here’s what the IRS says you should do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
     
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” page or call 800-366-4484.
     
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
     
  • If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

More ways to spot and avoid similar types of scams

For whatever reason, smartphones have caused people to let their guard down — and now more and more people are falling victim to various scams carried out via phone call, email and text message.

Scammers make themselves look legitimate so you will trust them — and they prey on people’s emotions and fears to get them to make fast decisions, before there’s even time to think it through.

So to help you avoid some common and ongoing scams, keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
     
  • Take time to research any organization or group that reaches out to you directly.
     
  • Check them out on bbb.org, search online, etc.
     
  • Never provide your personal information (address, date-of-birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know. Even with people you do know, do not provide this information via phone, email or text message.
     
  • Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
     
  • If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank or any other company, call the business directly using the number on your bill or credit card.
     
  • Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
     
  • Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can verify the emergency. 

Read more: Beware of Social Security scam that will steal your money

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Alex Thomas Sadler About the author: Alex Thomas Sadler
Alex Thomas Sadler is the Managing Editor of Clark.com and Clark Howard Digital Products. Alex is also the host of Common Cents, a new Clark.com series that makes money simple, so you can better understand and take control of your own financial life. Alex graduated from the University of Georgia with bachelor's degrees in ...Read more
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