FTC warning: The IRS does not accept payment in iTunes cards

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The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning today about a scam that sounds ridiculous but is nonetheless surprisingly common: Con artists are convincing victims that they’re from the IRS and will accept outstanding payments in the form of iTunes cards.

From an FTC blog post:

People have told the FTC about scammers who called and demanded iTunes cards as “payment.” Bogus “IRS agents” told people they owed back taxes and would be arrested soon, unless they bought an iTunes card and gave the code to the “agent.” Phony “government grant” officers called and promised a big payout, after the person bought an iTunes card and read the code to the “grant officer.” Other fraudsters told people their grandkids were in jail and the only way to help was — you guessed it — to buy an iTunes card and read the code over the phone. All the stories were false.

There’s a reason scammers insist on getting iTunes cards: Once you tell a scammer the code from the back of an iTunes card, he takes control of the value on the card. He can use the code or sell it. After a person redeems the code, you can’t get your money back.

This may sound too preposterous to be true, but a search on “IRS and iTunes cards” turns up:  

And that’s just a sampling of the headlines only from the past month or so.

What might make someone believe these requests for iTunes cards are on the up and up? My guess would be that many of the victims are elderly. A colleague who recently lost his father tells me that his mother came across a few iTunes cards among her husband’s belongings and didn’t know quite what to make of them.

You might want to consider giving your elderly parents a heads up.

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