IRS Phone Scam and Apartment Rental Scam

May 3, 2018


The MIT Police have been made aware of recent scam incidents. The first is tax-related phone scams and the second is an online apartment rental scam. These scams are not
unique to MIT, they happen everywhere, and we don’t want you to fall victim to these callous scams.


IRS Phone Scam
Victims report receiving calls from people pretending to be IRS tax employees or police officers who are threatening to arrest them.  The perpetrators tell the victims that they owe thousands of dollars in taxes and will be arrested if they do not pay immediately.  Then the perpetrators tell the victims to purchase gift cards, usually amounting to thousands of dollars.  The perpetrators then demand the victims read the numbers off the cards to the perpetrators over the phone.  This allows the criminals to use the gift card without ever having physical possession of it.

Apartment Rental Scam
The scammer tries to get money from a prospective tenant for an apartment that the scammer is in no legal position to rent. This scam typically involves a prospective tenant looking for rental properties, and are told by the “landlord” via email that they are overseas or away and have to conduct the rental process remotely. Once the prospective tenant fills out a rental application, scammers will request deposit money to be wired to a bank account. Once that money is gone, it’s gone for good.

In order to protect yourself from phone and online scams, the MIT Police encourage you to follow these tips:
• Never give out personal information over the phone or online unless you are positive you are speaking to the company or entity you are expecting or you initiated the call.
• No government agency or police department will demand to be paid in gift cards of any kind.
• The IRS will never threaten to immediately arrest you.
• If you are talking to strangers on the phone or online, they may not be who they say they are.

Here are some helpful tips for spotting and avoiding apartment scams:
• Ask to see the potential landlord’s ID – record all the information you can from it. Use a browser to search for the landlord’s name. Be sure to add quotes around their name. You can add the words “fraud” or “scam” at the end of your search terms.
• Visit Craigslist Avoiding Scams at
• Use reverse directory look up if the person has given you their telephone number. It’s important to double check that they are who they say they are.
• If they don’t ask for an application or permission to check your credit, it is a red flag!
• Research the average rental rates in that area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower.
• Be suspicious if you’re asked to use a wire transfer service.
• Do not provide copies of personal information, like driver’s license, social security, bank account, or credit card numbers.
• Monitor your credit reports for free. Federal law requires each of the three major credit reporting agencies to give you a free credit report-at your request-each year. Visit – the only authorized website for free credit reports.
• Consider additional methods for obtaining a rental, i.e. real estate agent, going through a rental agency, etc.
• Read the Cambridge Police Department’s Crime Prevention and Safety Tips at

Notify the MIT Police at (617) 253-1212 or dial 100 from any campus phone if you believe a crime is occurring, has occurred, or is about to occur.

Issued by

Sue Fuller-DeAmato
Crime Analyst  |  MIT Police Department
W89/301 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 715-4890  |