Scam alert: Criminals seek to have ‘back taxes’ paid with iTune gift cards

As tax season rages on, so too do the scams associated with paying your taxes.

Particularly hot right now are tax scamsters asking you to pay your supposed back taxes with a prepaid iTunes gift card.

Don’t do it!

RELATED: Here’s your 2018 estimated tax refund schedule

iTunes, Google Play gift cards: Never a legit payment solution!

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According to the Treasury Department, some 10,000 people have lost more than $54 million in phone scams since October 2013 — and iTunes gift cards have been the method of choice for criminals to extract money from unsuspecting victims.

Here’s how this scam plays out. It starts with you receiving a call saying you owe back taxes and that they can be paid with an iTunes gift card.

If you take the bait, you’re asked for the 16-digit code on back of the gift card. That’s the key the criminal needs to access the money that you put on that card.

Criminals love iTunes gift cards because because it’s difficult to follow the money after the value of the gift card is spent down to zero. CNBC notes that it’s also difficult for victims to get their money back, even if they realize they’re caught up in a scam.

Of course, IRS impersonation scams are nothing new. Each year, they come back around with new variations.

But with this year’s tax season coming down to the wire, now is a good time to remind yourself that these things are out there and your money can be stolen if you’re not careful.

As the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has noted in the past, “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.”

So remember this rule and follow it:

If you’re ever asked to pay taxes, hospital bills, bail money, debt collection or utility bills with an iTunes gift card, don’t do it!

Meanwhile, Apple users aren’t the only ones being targeted in these kinds of scams. The same thing is going on with Google Play gift cards.

Our own writer Mike Timmermann reports a criminal operation tried to get him to buy a $100 Google Play gift card as part of an elaborate fake Amazon customer service number scam.

If you encounter any variation of these scams, you can report them to the Treasury Department using this form.

RELATED: 3 simple money moves to make in 2018

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