Ionia couple out $500 after paying IRS imposter using iTunes gift cards

IONIA, Mich. -- The IRS says it’s a scam that’s been making the rounds for years, and it's one the agency and local police have issued multiple warnings about.

Usually thieves call you demanding money and threaten jail time if you don’t pay. But now it appears they're also using text messaging.

Joe and Ronda Nalett received a text on Tuesday, July 11th.

“I was scared. I started ballin'," the Ionia woman said.

The text was from someone claiming to be with the IRS and said there was a warrant out for her arrest. Eager to comply, she called the number.

Nalett said, “He said one way we could resolve this is if you can get a $25 card, but it can’t be a bank card, a debit, Visa, or Mastercard. It has to be from iTunes.”

So Nalett bought an iTunes gift card with $25 on it and told him the number on the back so he could retrieve the money. But apparently that wasn’t enough. She said the imposter quickly demanded another $150.

“And I’m like panicking because we didn’t have it,” Nalett said.

After borrowing the money from her son, Nalett said the impostor demanded more money. He even texted her documents showing the accusations against her.

“He kept saying... I’m gonna be arrested, I’m going to go to prison, I’m going to lose my house, my car. Yea, seize my bank account," Nalett added, "I was crying at this point.”

After making multiple trips to purchase six iTunes gift cards from two different stores, the Naletts say they paid a total of $500 to the man.

“That’s a lot for us because we’re going to paycheck to paycheck," she said.

Nalett said at that point the demands stopped, but she got suspicious when she couldn’t get a confirmation of her debt being cleared. The IRS said there is no scenario through text or call where their agents will ask for money over the phone, especially in the form of a gift card.

Raphael Tulino, IRS spokesman said, “No matter the variation, under no circumstance is the IRS calling people out of the blue demanding immediate tax payment and certainly not asking to make that payment on an iTunes gift card. The normal correspondence from our agency- the IRS to the taxpayer - is a letter in the mail.”

Tulino said you can ignore the phony message and report it to the US Treasury Inspector General at tigda.gov.

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