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New version of a sad song: Scammers have discovered iTunes gift cards

itunes gift cards
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Beware of scammers who’ve discovered the convenience of iTunes gift cards, warns the St. Louis Better Business Bureau.

It’s just a new version of an old song: Thieves ask for iTunes entertainment cards to pay for counterfeit or nonexisting merchandise, or even to settle debt. The goods and services are bogus, and the consumer is out of luck.

“They’ve been having people go to Western Union or to MoneyGram to wire money or to use a Green Dot MoneyPak card. They’ve now figured out that with iTunes gift cards they can transfer, essentially cash, in ways that make it very difficult to trace,’’ says Chris Thetford of the BBB.

In a recent case, a 52-year-old woman from southern Missouri contacted the St. Louis BBB about an online loan company demanding iTunes cards.

 After applying for a $3,000 loan, she got a phone call from a man who claimed to be a loan officer. He promised a low-interest loan if she made a “good faith” payment that would be fully refundable. He told her to buy an iTunes card for $200 at a local pharmacy and to give him the personal identification number (PIN) from the card.

When he called again asking for another iTunes gift card, she knew she’d been had.

The scammers aren’t using the gift cards to purchase music and movies, according to Thetford.

“The speculation on the part of government investigators is that the numbers become valuable on the black market, and the numbers get sold for cash,’’ he said.

The BBB notes that the North Carolina Department of Justice investigated a “grandparent scam” last year using iTunes cards.  The victims purchased 52 iTunes cards, worth $26,000, to pay off a scammer who claimed their grandson needed money for bail.

The Internal Revenue Service warns of another phone scam in which people claiming to be IRS agents demand that back taxes be paid with iTunes gift cards.

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

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