CONSUMER ALERT – Gift card scam

WHSV TV3 is reporting that, recently, Denise McKendry from Powhatan, Virginia, received an automated voicemail from a phone number with a New York area code.  The voicemail said that she would “face the consequences” if she didn’t return the phone call.  McKendry did return the call and was connected with a man who claimed to work for the IRS who had an ID number as well as a claim number.  He was a fast talker and told her that she owed $5,207.00 from tax years 2013-18.

The fake IRS employee threatened McKendry with criminal charges on three counts if the back taxes were not paid.  He then instructed her to purchase $500 in Google Play cards from the self-checkout from a store on their list.  McKendry drove to the approved Kroger store while on the phone with the “IRS employee” who instructed her not to speak to anyone in the store about the purpose.  When McKendry questioned paying back taxes with Google Play cards and suggested getting a certified check, the man on the phone insisted “No check.  The IRS, police department and Google are working together in cooperation to settle delinquent tax accounts.”

McKendry had difficulty with the self-checkout lane and eventually was sent to customer service where an employee questioned her about the transaction.  Kroger Store Leader Tim Day advised McKendry to immediately hang up the phone.  Several minutes later, another call came to her phone with caller ID showing from the Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office, but it was really just the same scammer.

Additionally, two JMU employees reported to the Harrisonburg Police Department that they received emails which seemed to be from their supervisor requesting that they purchase Google Play cards and send the activation codes.  The Harrisonburg Police Department is urging people, especially those with James Madison University email addresses, to be cautious when opening and responding to emails.

It is important to remember that no reputable business or government agency will ever request any type of pre-paid card, gift card, or wire transfer.  There is no doubt that the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes!  If there is someone on the phone asking for payment of back taxes, ask that they send you a mailed copy of the bill before paying.  Do NOT give the caller debit or credit card numbers over the phone.

Calls which threaten to arrest you, bring in local law enforcement, or demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount you owe are BOGUS, FRAUDULENT, FALSE, FICTITIOUS and PHONY.  These callers often instruct you not to notify local law enforcement since “they can’t help you.  If you receive a call such as those described above, hang up immediately! If you have been scammed out of money, local law enforcement agencies would like for you to report the incident.  However, there is no need to report a call from which you were aware and did not give away sensitive information.