A Melbourne woman has lost more than $46,000 after being conned into buying more than 300 iTunes gift cards for scammers as part of a “cruel, targeted” attack lasting a week, police say.
The victim, 74, from Hawthorn was asked to reveal the PIN codes on the cards over the phone by a man who claimed to work for a major telecommunications company.
The scammers also advised her to transfer money into Indian bank accounts.
While speaking to the woman, the scammers gained remote access to her computer and online banking.
Victoria Police has warned that iTunes gift cards — which are sold at retailers including Coles, Woolworths, Kmart and Australia Post — are being used in elaborate scams and in this case, the woman was told a complicated story over many days of calls.
“She’s a vulnerable elderly lady. She lives on her own which is why it’s even more disturbing and why we want to get the message out there,” Detective Senior Constable Cameron Mitchell said.
“I’d describe it as disturbing, sad and cruel. It’s one of the lowest things you could do, especially to an elderly lady like this.”
It follows a similar case in Perth, where pensioner Jenni Woodroffe was phoned by two “plausible sounding” men who demanded payment in iTunes vouchers for what they claimed was a Centrelink debt.
The men, claiming to be from the Australian Tax Office, told Ms Woodroffe she was at risk of losing her pension and driver’s licence and a warrant had been issued for her arrest.
The scammers convinced Ms Woodroffe to drive to various supermarkets and purchase dozens of iTunes vouchers, and then relay the cards’ redemption codes to the men using her mobile phone.
The Melbourne woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, also bought the gift cards from major retailers, but a customer service worker intervened and called the police.
“I’m thankful there was intervention or she would have lost a lot more money,” Senior Constable Mitchell said.
“Anyone calling and asking you to buy iTunes gift cards is likely to be a scam.
“I don’t know of any company that would request you to buy iTunes cards to fix your security.
“Also companies won’t be asking you to wire money offshore. In any of these events contact your local police.”
Money unlikely to be recovered
Police are working with Apple to try to trace the cards.
“Part of our investigation with Apple is to find out what happened to the cards,” Senior Constable Mitchell said.
“We’ve provided the PIN codes to Apple, the ones that were obtained, and they’ve co-operated.
“They’ve told us as best they can, how the cards were activated and when, same with where the money gets wired.”
Police said it was unlikely the woman would get her money back.