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At Holiday Time, Fake IRS Scammers Are Afoot

One recent fraud dupes victims into paying IRS 'bills' with iTunes cards

iTunes Gift Card Scam

Mario Beauregard/Alamy

The IRS does not ask for credit or debit card information over the phone and will not accept gift cards for payment.

With holiday season upon us, it’s also prime time for scamming. This year, many of the bad guys are relying on a familiar ploy: faking status as IRS agents to get consumers to cough up personal financial information.

Among the newer tactics: A man in Columbus, Neb., said he was duped into forking over $2,000 worth of iTunes cards to a scammer posing as an agent. The IRS does not accept such cards as payment. It also does not get in touch with people about outstanding bills except by mail and does not ask for credit or debit card information over the phone.

A cybersecurity expert said the uptick in scammer activity is no surprise.

“There’s an actual calendar of fraud,” Alan Brill, senior managing director of cybersecurity and investigations at Kroll, a risk solutions firm, told the website the Payoff. “A lot goes on around the holidays, and then [there’s] a little lull until it picks up again around Valentine’s Day.”

If you think you owe the IRS, call (800) 829-1040 to get advice. If you receive a call from anyone purporting to be with the IRS claiming you owe money, report the incident to the treasury inspector general for tax administration at (800) 366-4484 or visit

In addition, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you discard unnecessary or unwanted apps on your phone to avoid inadvertently revealing sensitive information to cyber thieves.

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