It’s likely safe to say that a real IRS agent will not ask you to pay your debt with a Target gift card. Not even a fake agent will do that, now that Yu Zhang has pleaded guilty to wire fraud.
U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald said in a press release that Zhang and his co-conspirators made phone calls to victims in numerous states across the country and, posing as government agents, employed a number of strategies to threaten or entice the victim into making an immediate payment to a purported governmental entity.
“The victims were instructed to bring funds to a local Target store and purchase a gift card that could be used to satisfy the ‘debt,’ and provide the card number and activation code to the co-conspirator over the phone.
The co-conspirators would then send a message to Zhang containing the gift card numbers and activation codes, so that Zhang could use that information to redeem the gift cards at Target stores by purchasing pre-paid, third-party gift cards such as Google Play and Steam cards.
To avoid detection, Zhang would travel to multiple Target stores, including stores in other states, and use the self-checkout registers for his transactions. After purchasing the third-party cards, Zhang would immediately convey the card numbers and activation codes to others who were involved in the scheme,” the release said.
Zhang admitted to redeeming more than $250,000 worth of Target gift cards by conducting hundreds of transactions at Target stores in Minnesota and Colorado.
It’s unclear whether Zhang was able to scoop up a mass of those $5 cards you get at Target when you buy enough of something.