The warning comes as two elderly Australians have come forward after recording losses of around $40,000 through the scam.
Deputy Chair for the ACCC Delia Rickard says that 700,000 losses have been reported and fears that this is ‘just the tip of the iceberg’.
“People over the age of 65 are most likely to fall victim to this scam,” she says.
“Theses scammers are calling these people and hiding behind trusted brands and companies – like Telco’s and government organisations and they are using intimidation to scam people out of their money using virtually untraceable iTunes vouchers.
“We do often see the elderly being at the heart of those targeted by scams but there are different demographics targeted for different scams and the elderly seem to be susceptible to over the phone and computer scams.
“I suspect that the elderly are quite often at home to receive calls on their landlines and are more trusting.”
Ms Rickard says that it is important for anyone – but particularly older Australians – to be aware that no legitimate company will ask for payment in iTunes or other gift cards.
“We have had some reports that it isn’t just iTunes cards being used – Coles vouchers have also come up,” she says.
“This is exploiting vulnerable consumers and terrifying them – the main scam out there in regards to these gift cards is from people posing to be the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and telling these people that they owe a lot of money, and if they don’t pay up today a warrant will be out for their arrest.
“Usually they ask for $500 to several thousands of dollars, calling vulnerable Australians, keeping them on the phone and instructing them on where to buy and how many to buy.”
For anyone who may receive one of these scam calls, Ms Rickard recommends simply hanging up.
“If you get one of these calls – just hang up,” she says.
“Don’t be intimidated by them even though they can be quite threatening because we believe that most of them are from overseas.
“If you are concerned that it is legitimate, search for the number of the company that has allegedly called you – don’t use the contact details they may give you – and make a query with the real company.”
For those who have lost thousands of dollars to the scammers, Ms Rickard says that money is gone.
“These gift cards are not identifiable – and once the codes have been shared – they are already activated and often spent,” she explains.
“Once it is spent there is no way to get the money back – it’s a very efficient way for these scammers to get paid.”
The ACCC encourages friends and families of elderly Australians to educate and keep an eye on those who could fall victim.
“The main message to be sharing is that no legitimate government organisation or company will use iTunes or any other vouchers as a form of payment,” Ms Rickard says.
“If you have elderly friends or family, look out for them – talk to them about scams that are going around and tell them that iTunes are not a legitimate form of payment for any organisations.
“No matter who you are you should never give out personal details or give money to a stranger or someone contacting you out of the blue over the phone or through the computer.
“Check out the Scamwatch website to keep up to date on what’s happening and even sign up for ‘radar’ emails of current scams.
“These scammers are often very good at impersonating websites, letterheads – so it is important to be alert and careful.”