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Itunes Scam Alert
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs is warning residents about a costly new version of the grandparent scam. Seniors have lost up to $8,000 apiece in this evolving scam, which uses iTunes as the form of payment.
A 79-year-old Cuyahoga County woman is $7,000 in debt after being tricked by a scammer who called pretending to be her granddaughter. The girl said she was in jail and handed the call off to an accomplice pretending to be a public defender. He told the grandmother she needed to pay $3,500 to free her granddaughter from jail.
When the grandmother said she didn’t have the bail money, the scammer directed her to get a cash advance on her credit card and use the money to buy iTunes gift cards from a nearby grocery store. After she purchased the cards, he called to ask for the card numbers, which, unbeknownst to her, allowed him to strip the value from the cards. The scammer then instructed her to mail the cards to a Columbus address.
Several days later, the scammer called again to say the granddaughter needed to pay an additional $3,500 before she could be released. The Grandmother bought more iTunes cards and followed the scammers’ instructions to mail them to an insurance agent in Cleveland.
When the scammer called a third time to ask for more money, the woman called the insurer, which advised her it had no such agent and no office at that address in Cleveland.
The United States Postal Inspection Service in Cleveland, the law enforcement arm of the post office, reported receiving a nearly identical scam complaint from a senior in Huron County who lost $8,000. Last month, the Cleveland BBB reported a Slavic Village man was approached with the scam but didn’t go through with the card purchase.
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs suspects the scammers are converting the iTunes cards to cash by selling them for partial value. Asking consumers to mail the stripped cards appears to be a tactic to buy the scammer more time before victims become suspicious.
Cuyahoga County residents who encounter this or any other scam should call the Department of Consumer Affairs at 216-443-7035.
- Be aware grandparent scams are common. Seniors can avoid the scams by calling a relative to check on the grandchild’s location. Family members should make sure grandparents have cell numbers for children and grandchildren and encourage them to verify a relative is in trouble, even if the grandchild pleads for secrecy.
- Avoid sending payments to people who call demanding money. It’s easy for callers to pretend to be law enforcement officers, public defenders, IRS agents or even relatives.
- Understand that scammers often ask for unusual payment methods (prepaid cards, gift cards, Moneypaks, wire transfers, etc.) because they are hard for law enforcement to trace. Law enforcement and government officials will never instruct you to use a gift card or wire transfer to pay a fine.
- Spread the word to seniors so they can protect themselves.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.