COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning consumers to beware of callers who claim to represent the IRS and ask for payment via iTunes gift cards, after 10 Ohioans recently reported losing between $1,000 and $11,500 to the ploy.
Hundreds of other Ohioans have reported receiving scam calls that falsely suggest they are in trouble with the IRS.
In the latest twist to the scam, the consumer is told to purchase iTunes gift cards, often worth $500 each, to resolve the supposed tax problem. After buying the cards, the consumer is instructed to read the numbers on the back of the cards over the phone. Using this information, scammers drain the cards’ funds, making it nearly impossible for the consumer to recover the money.
“The real IRS is not going to call you unexpectedly and demand that you pay off tax debt using an iTunes card,” Attorney General DeWine said. “This is not how the IRS operates. But con artists are good at what they do, and anyone can fall for scams. We’re encouraging people to look for the warning signs and to talk to friends, family, and neighbors about this.”
As part of the scam, con artists may tell consumers to mail the iTunes cards themselves to an unrelated physical address after they’ve gathered the numbers over the phone. This may distract the consumer, give the scammer more time to access the funds, and hinder the consumer’s ability to report the scam.
Tips to avoid IRS imposter phone scams include:
- Don’t trust threatening callers. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, be very skeptical, especially if you never received any written notice.
- Avoid making payments over the phone. Don’t trust someone who demands that you pay immediately over the phone using a gift card, prepaid card, or wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists, because it’s difficult to recover the funds once payment is provided. The real IRS won’t demand that you pay over the phone using one of these specific methods.
- Don’t respond to illegal robocalls in any way. Don’t interact with the caller, and don’t call a number left on your phone or in a message. Responding to a scam call can result in even more calls because it lets con artists know that your phone number belongs to a real person.
- Don’t always trust caller ID. Scammers may “spoof” a phone number, making the number on your caller ID appear to be from the IRS, even when it’s not. They may make it look like the call is originating from a 202 (Washington D.C.) area code to appear more legitimate.
Check into call-blocking options. Check with your phone carrier and third-party services to determine whether call-blocking services could help you stop unwanted calls.
IRS or U.S. Treasury impersonation scams can be reported to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.treasury.gov/tigta or 800-366-4484. Consumers also can contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515 for help detecting a scam.