The IRS does not accept iTunes gift cards, don't get scammed

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 6
A recent op-ed reminds U.S. citizens that Internal Revenue Service impersonators are out in force this tax season and, like last year and year before, some are looking to fleece unwitting victims by asking them to pay back taxes with iTunes gift cards.




Phone scammers work year round, but it is during the lucrative tax season that many come out of the woodwork. Capitalizing on the sometimes complex process of filing, and an imminent fear of running afoul of the IRS, fraudsters often target victims during the weeks leading up to April 15.

In recent years, scam artists have turned to a not so likely source of income: iTunes gift cards. One such scammer attempted the iTunes gambit on CNBC Money Editor Jim Pavia, who wrote about the experience in a Monday editorial.

According to Pavia, phone scams often follow a simple formula. Victims receive a threatening call from an IRS impersonator who requests "back taxes" or some other form of tax payment be paid via gift card. In this case, the scammer asked Pavia to purchase an iTunes gift card, loaded to an unspecified amount, and send the 16-digit redemption code over the phone.

As Pavia notes, it is difficult to track paid money once an iTunes gift card is redeemed. Further, Apple is not responsible for customers falling victim to fraudulent IRS calls, meaning attempts to recoup the funds are unlikely to yield results.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, savvy criminals are keenly aware of potential fraud safeguards in place at credit card companies, as Pavia was unable to persuade the scammer to take payment by card. After refusing to purchase an iTunes gift card, he was told a warrant for his arrest would be issued and was later sent a voicemail with a callback number that led to a fairly elaborate "call center." An "operator" then attempted to extract his social security number.

Pavia's experience is hardly an isolated case.

In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a scam alert warning taxpayers of callers who were impersonating IRS or Treasury Department employees to swindle payments processed as iTunes and other gift cards. The alert is still pinned to the top of TIGTA's official webpage as of this writing.

"As a reminder, any call requesting that taxpayers place funds on an iTunes Gift Card or other gift cards to pay taxes and fees is an indicator of fraudulent activity! No legitimate United States Treasury or IRS official will demand that payments via Western Union, MoneyGram, bank wire transfers, or bank deposits be made into another person's account for any debt to the IRS or Treasury," the agency said.

According to CNBC, the Treasury Department reports more than 10,000 victims have fallen prey to tax phone scammers, paying out over $54 million since October 2013.

TIGTA urges recipients of scam calls to notify the agency of fraudulent activity via its reporting page.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    Every year many people pay 'The Stupid Tax'.
    tallest skilcornchipanton zuykovchialkruppjony0
  • Reply 2 of 16
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,760member
    This is the beauty of using Google Voice. Block out all calls from numbers that are not in your address book. 
    edited March 6
  • Reply 3 of 16
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,043member
    Pay back tax if Apple gift cards, how the (expletive deleted) could anyone take this seriously.
    cornchipchiajony0
  • Reply 4 of 16
    supadav03supadav03 Posts: 388member
    The first thought was “who would fall for this shit?”. Then I thought of my Grandma...better go call Grandma.
    cornchipanton zuykovlamboaudi4Rayz2016chialordjohnwhorfinjony0
  • Reply 5 of 16
    My IRS 'Agent' insisted we use only AMAZON Gift-Cards. But it's not iTunes... so it *must* be safe!!
    Solicornchipanton zuykovchialordjohnwhorfinjony0
  • Reply 6 of 16
    Lol. Funny but not funny...sad.
  • Reply 7 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,176member
    That's a tough call. I'd wait and ask my friend, a Nigerian prince, for advice.
    cornchipanton zuykovmacseekerRayz2016bonoboblordjohnwhorfinjony0
  • Reply 8 of 16
    applericappleric Posts: 30member
    Seriously how would ANYONE believe that paying for taxes using any gift card is something possible. Wha??? They do not even accept credit cards.
    lordjohnwhorfin
  • Reply 9 of 16
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,043member
    Apple just place an order with their gift card supplier for 13.8 billion Euro worth of gift cards.
    lordjohnwhorfin
  • Reply 10 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,293member
    I was going to quote the famous Phineas T. Barnum line about suckers but then I remembered he didn’t actually say it.
    lordjohnwhorfinjony0
  • Reply 11 of 16
    lkrupp said:
    I was going to quote the famous Phineas T. Barnum line about suckers but then I remembered he didn’t actually say it.
    You mean the opening line from the "Killer Klowns from Outer Space" theme song by the Dickies is lying? Noooooo!
  • Reply 12 of 16
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,233member
    This is the beauty of using Google Voice. Block out all calls from numbers that are not in your address book. 
    That works well when a business who needs to get hold of you can not since you did not put all their numbers I your address book or when the local hospital calls and tells you your kid has been injured.
    jony0
  • Reply 13 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,176member
    maestro64 said:
    This is the beauty of using Google Voice. Block out all calls from numbers that are not in your address book. 
    That works well when a business who needs to get hold of you can not since you did not put all their numbers I your address book or when the local hospital calls and tells you your kid has been injured.
    If it's a hospital about an injury they'll leave a message for you to call them. Since he mentioned Google Voice you'll get an email with the number, an transcription of the call and a link to play the audio. So, he's  lost no more than a minute but since that's a very rare and unlikely occurrence he's saved countless hours over the years by not wasting his time answering spam, telemarketing. and other calls. It seems like an easy decision, to me.

    PS: He may even be able to save time because he's getting an email transcript he can quickly skim over as opposed to having to listen to a VM, the latter of which takes more time and focus than being able to read while doing other tasks.
    baconstang
  • Reply 14 of 16
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,233member
    Soli said:
    maestro64 said:
    This is the beauty of using Google Voice. Block out all calls from numbers that are not in your address book. 
    That works well when a business who needs to get hold of you can not since you did not put all their numbers I your address book or when the local hospital calls and tells you your kid has been injured.
    If it's a hospital about an injury they'll leave a message for you to call them. Since he mentioned Google Voice you'll get an email with the number, an transcription of the call and a link to play the audio. So, he's  lost no more than a minute but since that's a very rare and unlikely occurrence he's saved countless hours over the years by not wasting his time answering spam, telemarketing. and other calls. It seems like an easy decision, to me.

    PS: He may even be able to save time because he's getting an email transcript he can quickly skim over as opposed to having to listen to a VM, the latter of which takes more time and focus than being able to read while doing other tasks.
    Actual the question is, does it block the caller altogether or just sends it to voice mail's

     I use Ooma, and I can blocker specific callers or only let calls come through on a specific list, ie contact list.  I do not block based on the contact list for the above reason, I create block list and let everything else come through and if does not  caller ID to someone or company I know it goes to voicemail, if there is no caller ID the message they get days my number is no longer in service. 

    I never give out my cell phone number to business, only friends have it, everyone else gets the home line. For this reason and the fact there could be an emergency it does not make sense to block all callers who are not in you contact list.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,176member
    maestro64 said:
    Soli said:
    maestro64 said:
    This is the beauty of using Google Voice. Block out all calls from numbers that are not in your address book. 
    That works well when a business who needs to get hold of you can not since you did not put all their numbers I your address book or when the local hospital calls and tells you your kid has been injured.
    If it's a hospital about an injury they'll leave a message for you to call them. Since he mentioned Google Voice you'll get an email with the number, an transcription of the call and a link to play the audio. So, he's  lost no more than a minute but since that's a very rare and unlikely occurrence he's saved countless hours over the years by not wasting his time answering spam, telemarketing. and other calls. It seems like an easy decision, to me.

    PS: He may even be able to save time because he's getting an email transcript he can quickly skim over as opposed to having to listen to a VM, the latter of which takes more time and focus than being able to read while doing other tasks.
    Actual the question is, does it block the caller altogether or just sends it to voice mail's

     I use Ooma, and I can blocker specific callers or only let calls come through on a specific list, ie contact list.  I do not block based on the contact list for the above reason, I create block list and let everything else come through and if does not  caller ID to someone or company I know it goes to voicemail, if there is no caller ID the message they get days my number is no longer in service. 

    I never give out my cell phone number to business, only friends have it, everyone else gets the home line. For this reason and the fact there could be an emergency it does not make sense to block all callers who are not in you contact list.
    My Google Voice number doesn't do anything fancy, but I'd like for it to check the source number before allowing a call to go through. I'd love for Apple to offer this as a feature as I trust Apple more than those 3rd-party apps that would have access to my Contacts which contain a lot of personal information.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    macguimacgui Posts: 850member
    supadav03 said:
    The first thought was “who would fall for this shit?”. Then I thought of my Grandma...better go call Grandma.
    And that's the problem, the target, and the victim.

    Idiots with their heads fully up their asses say 'Who could be stupid enough to fall for this?' I'd like to punch those thoughtless assholes in the throat.

    It's almost always the elderly who have lost some degree of cognitive competency, and therefore easily manipulated or outright coerced. It's truly sad to see somebody victimized like this. But as long as it's not you (not you, sup) or a family member, then they're idiots.  

    Some people will be sharp as a tack in their later years. Others won't fare so well. Maybe they should be put on an ice floe and cast adrift.
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