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Here’s one of the top questions we get from people: Is this a scam? Whatever the “this” looks like, here’s our best answer to that question: Did someone say you can only pay by wiring money, putting money on a gift card, or loading money on a cash reload card? If they did, then yes: that is a scam.

Here’s a video that has, in a little more than a minute, some of the scam scenarios we see – and what you should do about them.

 

Whether someone tells you to pay to claim a prize, help someone out of trouble, or deal with tax issues from the (so-called) IRS: nobody legitimate is ever going to say you have to pay by wiring them money, getting iTunes cards, or putting money on a MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload, or Reloadit card.

So: watch the video. And if anyone ever insists you pay in one of those ways, tell the FTC. Because that will be a scam we want to know about.

161 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Richiet
January 04, 2018
got it thanks.
Confused about…
January 05, 2018

In reply to by Richiet

Internal Revenue Service send my balance to a collection agency, I called that agency and they told me in order to avoid further collection process for me to pay 80% of my balance my getting a pre-paid visa so it can be process faster. I called Internal Revenue they confirmed this collection agency as their 3rd party collectors but they never should instruct any consumer to get a pre-paid card. Internal Revenue told me to call another number and confirm that the collector I spoke to was indeed their employee. I did and they confirmed that he was. I told the manager what he requested to resolve the balance and she told me yes that is true for those that do not have a checking account or debit card. So I am confused. Should this be legal or not for collection agencies to ask for a prepaid visa card??
FTC Staff
January 05, 2018

In reply to by Confused about…

It's good that you are asking questions before you send money.

The IRS uses some private debt collectors. The real private debt collectors working with the IRS will never ask you to pay them directly. They will tell you to pay the IRS electronically at IRS.gov/payments, or send a check directly to the IRS that says "payable to the US Treasury."

The IRS website about private debt collectors says: Private collection agencies will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit, iTunes or gift card.

The IRS website about private collectors lists the names and phone numbers of the real private collectors it uses.

You can make a complaint about a private collection agency or report misconduct by its employee, at 800-366-4484.

AB0708
February 13, 2018

In reply to by FTC Staff

If someone doesn't have a bank account, they can't pay by check. If someone doesn't have a credit card, then they can't pay electronically. So, maybe the person advised to purchase a prepaid visa, so that payment could be made electronically to the IRS. The comment above didn't say the employee requested the payment be made to him personally via prepaid visa; it just states that he was advised to purchase a prepaid visa to ensure the payment was processed quickly to avoid further collections. IF a prepaid Visa card is purchased in order to pay off a debt, and that prepaid card is used electronically on the IRS website is that still potentially fraud?? I mean, I obviously wouldn't recommend giving the prepaid visa or the pin information to the debt collector, BUT if paying on the actual IRS website is that an allowed form of payment??
Slowikoowska
January 05, 2018

In reply to by Richiet

Stop i not haf accont bank
Dough
January 04, 2018
The simple answer, the one that is always correct, is if you think something just might possibly be a scam, it is.
Beverly wood
January 04, 2018
i am trying to get a password for my account of netspend but i can't get a new one that is going to let me sing in ro my account
Juanita3399
January 04, 2018
I have been a victim of the ITunes scam. The scammer stole 49,900 from me. I wish I had known about this before it happened. He was very tricky.
My Lady
January 04, 2018

In reply to by Juanita3399

I also been the victim of a scam since 6/2017..first begaing with relachionschip on line and escalated from there .i paying his bill.so he said he got a 1milliom 3 hundred and 57 thousand that he will put me as his.beneficiary but never money went to the account so the last thing he did was cancel the papel work to come.home and do it from here..so i did se t for his.flying ticked and i till waeting for him This is very embarrasing this peopler dont have a geart on them.I dont know what im going to do but it took from mi 30 thousa d plus mi car a d all the shame a d enbarrasment tjat go alone with it Im past mi 60+ a d dont know what will happe d from mi now and mi family as i texting im on the street homless
FTC Staff
January 04, 2018

In reply to by My Lady

Older adults and their families can find help at eldercare.gov. That is a federal government website. Use the website to look for help in your community for housing options, legal help, food assistance and other needs. Or call this toll-free number: 1-800-677-1116.

brody
May 22, 2018

In reply to by My Lady

I believe I am in the middle of a romantic scam, and know just how you feel. I haven't given him near that much, but now he wants over $7000 for delivery of a "Box" that suppose to contain $10million. I think he really does love me. The name he's using is Steve Arthur. Can you tell me about your man? He says he was born in US but working for government in Yemen. Wife died. 2 kids in boarding school. I sent him $1,250 for his son's school registration, and several $100 iTunes cards, a $1000 gold chain. Sound like him? Please reply.
Me too
October 12, 2018

In reply to by brody

This guy contacted me on insta....week later he told me he loved me. Now begging for $200 iTunes. He goes by the name of Cosby Parnet hangouts and Donovan McGuire on IG. His story is he's in Djibouti and they don't get paid until February...the end of the deployment. He won't facetime bc he says there's a call ban. Weird. He's stolen some soldier's pictures and account. He won't send anything current...all generic pictures. I have done searches on the images but nothing has come up. He almost fooled me.
HowdidIgetduped
November 15, 2018

In reply to by brody

Yes! Used the name David Spencer. Wife dead in car accident, in Yemen, with the United Nations, two kids in boarding school. Had me totally convinced convinced he loved me! He's good at the scamming. Had me going until he asked for money! He needed money to pay the kids book fees, $2,400. I didn't give him any money! He had me convinced. He's good at this. He wanted money for the kids school. The worst part for me was I thought this person loved me.
80s_ 37
October 07, 2019

In reply to by brody

What did he look like.me also talk to a man name steven. Which waa the name he uses. Sent him over 3000. Just being nice but never showed. And then had his commander text me . saying he will help me . but never dis so stop talking too him and now calling he's getting ppl to call my phone.
dhd123
April 12, 2021

In reply to by brody

A lot of scammers will use two first names as to who they supposedly are. Steve and Arthur are both first names, I have seen something like Mark Jayson, John George etc
Lorrain 477
January 16, 2018

In reply to by Juanita3399

Im a victim of IRS scam by using a iTunes card I'm so hurt physical and emotional
carrie 122
February 11, 2018

In reply to by Lorrain 477

I feel your pain, my savings was depleted due to a scammer.. i am very hurt physically and emotionally
vivian
February 21, 2018

In reply to by Juanita3399

a man called and I answered yes to a question before I thought , is there anything I can do
someone
June 24, 2018

In reply to by Juanita3399

I have been a victim of iTunes scam, too. Did you ever get talk to the iTunes company, and did they ever charge you with fraud?
stephanieclaus
August 04, 2018

In reply to by Juanita3399

How did he started it all, iTS like I'm going through the same process and I'm afraid it might be related to yours because I have lost 7,600 already .
de101
January 04, 2018
scams i hate
Sherry
January 04, 2018
Been scammed it hurts
Mary
January 04, 2018
In addition, they would tell you to overnight a check to them before providing any service! Or, they will ask how much credit that you have left on all of your credit and debit cards to discretely determine how much to charge you (aka scam you out of as much money as they can!) This is what Reliable Business Consultants as one of Top Shelf Marketing Companies did!
Watcher
January 04, 2018
Ladies and Gentlemen, if you are ever in doubt, the only way to make sure it is a legitimate communication, is to call the company. However, never call by the phone number contained in the email. Look up the company and call them directly and ask if they sent out the email and is it a legitimate offer.
Sick of this
January 10, 2018

In reply to by Watcher

Getting scammed over and over. Do scammers sell your phone numbers. Just got a text without a notification. It asked me if I requested an authorization code. If not call (800) 432-1000. When I search this number it comes up with a lot if results saying this number is from ...... Looks suspicious.
Casper
January 04, 2018
I also have been scammed by iTunes cards. To almost 10,000.00. It so devastating. It makes you sick that you could have been so dumb. Especially when you have been friends for over a yr. you wonder why they hate you so much that they could do this to you. I have no trust anymore in anything.
Songbird
September 02, 2019

In reply to by Casper

I have been scammed by someone I knew on line for a year mostly itune cards and a box of money to pay my debts after I paid several taxes on this money ...reported to FTC hopefully someday they will pay lost by entire savings.
Mags
January 04, 2018
You should have a presentation on deceptive marketing for those companies that skirt the legalities to rip you off...especially all the companies that offer a cheap product and bury information about it being a "membership subscription" at a couple hundred dollars a month 6 pages into 8 font grey terms and conditions. I think those people are even worse than these obvious scammers.
Angel72
January 04, 2018
I've been scammed. It hurts.
Timbo
February 10, 2018

In reply to by Angel72

I been same thing yes it is hurt me too they owe me a lots of money. I hate crooks.
Mary
January 04, 2018
I was scammed very hurtful and stupid. They are very smart.
Sharon
January 25, 2018

In reply to by Mary

I understand what you are saying about being very hurtful and stupid. I have just been scamed with a grant. What a fool i was. should have listen to my gut feelings. if it sounds to good to be true it probably is. I feel for all of us that have been scamed
Glenda
February 05, 2018

In reply to by Sharon

Did they tell you that they were with a financial advisor was there number 920-602-211
Stuyvesant Don't
May 15, 2019

In reply to by Sharon

I should have paid attention to my gut, I usually do. However, this time I didn’t. I did just write to the person I wired the money to and asked for a return before I notified authorities.
Sharon
January 25, 2018

In reply to by Mary

I understand what you are saying about being very hurtful and stupid. I have just been scamed with a grant. What a fool i was. should have listen to my gut feelings. if it sounds to good to be true it probably is. I feel for all of us that have been . They wont leave me alone keep asking for more money. i keep telling them iam not sending anymore money
Del000
January 04, 2018
Whenever you think it is impossible to happen or when someone ask for cash, or personal information you know it is a scam.
Don F.
January 04, 2018
I too have been victimized by scammers. I've learned to NEVER EVER provide personal info. or computer access to ANYONE unless I initiate the contact and know who I'm dealing with...
Shariys
January 04, 2018
Don't answer calls from unfamiliar numbers. Don't answer unfamiliar emails if it's asking you for ANYTHING. If it looks like it came from your bank or credit card, call the bank or credit card company directly. DON'T GIVE MONEY TO ANYONE unless you KNOW it's legit and you've checked it out!
brlawyer
January 04, 2018
brlawyer here. An old, old friend whose product I have used for years, Quicken, was sold by Intuit to a Canadian company in 2017. I am being bombarded online to "upgrade" to Quicken 2018. I was prepared to do so until I discovered that what is held out to be a "purchase" is in fact a rental of the product for a period of time (two years for the "Premium" program). The catch is, if at the end of the rental period, I do not elect to renew my subscription to use the product, I cannot retrieve my data. It will be locked out. I consider this to be a "scam" insofar as the truth is not disclosed prior to purchase.
FTC Staff
March 09, 2018

In reply to by brlawyer

You could report that to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. You can provide information about the company, what it promised, and what you received. The information you give goes into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

mp2962
January 04, 2018
I was almost scammed, by someone saying they were a relative of my husband and that they were at customs and couldn't be let through because he hadn't claimed how much money he had on him,(over of what was permitted) had someone pose as a customs agent and told me he had to leave a deposit, they would give him a form and he could claim money a consulate. The so called cousin only had a couple of bucks on him and he wanted to see if I could wire money. I almost did it but I asked my husband to call his cousin to see if there was anything else he needed (duhhh) he couldn't get a hold of him. I was about to wire money when I tried to call him one more time and he answer!! Low and behold he was in his home town not even traveling. So please beware of these kind of calls as well
olivia13
January 04, 2018
Scammed for $629. Scammers hacked into Hewlett-Packard #. When I called I was referred to 2 businesses who handled this type of problem. Called. Had me entirely fill out a check, sig, everything which they copied from my printer. Long story short, next day stopped payment on check and closed that banking account. Didn't hear anymore.
waltc
January 04, 2018
If you have a messaging service on your phone. Just put a message "I am monitoring my calls please state your business and leave your name and number." Watch the scammers hang up but fast.
lesley78
January 04, 2018
Facebook and other social media could do a lot to help prevent scammers using stolen accounts and photos . They could encourage people to report scammers and remove them. They often ignore reports Also they allow adverts that often make false claims It comes down though to people being lonely and vulnerable regular warnings on public forums such as FB would build awareness.
Paeng
January 04, 2018
Scam are networks.. playing accross the system.
Paeng
January 04, 2018
Some scam victims page are owned by scamers itself.. so its good if you know how to read their comments and messages. Sometimes they use common names. Or names that a person is familiar.