by Alex Palmer | March 12, 2018
Tax day is unpleasant enough, from saving every receipt to navigating the often confusing paperwork. But the U.S. Treasury Department has pointed to another hazard that consumers should be wary of: gift card scammers. According to the department, more than 10,000 people have fallen victim to scams in which supposed representatives of the Internal Revenue Service call requesting payment on back taxes or other bills, asking that payment be made in the form of gift cards - most often iTunes Music Cards. 

The scam follows a regular pattern: After receiving a threatening call demanding payment, sometimes with the threat of additional fines or even jail, the caller asks the victim to purchase an iTunes card from a nearby retailer and load it up with the funds they owe. They are then asked to provide the 16-digit code on the back of the card to the caller over the phone, which the scammer will then spend, and which can be harder to trace than a credit card or other type of payment.

While this might seem like an obvious fraud that few would fall for, at least $54 million has been paid to these swindlers since October 2013, according to the Treasury Department.

"Any caller requesting taxpayers place funds on an iTunes gift cards or other prepaid cards to pay taxes or fees is an indicator or fraudulent activity," the department said, in a statement made to CNBC.

This statement echoes similar ones that have been made by the IRS in recent years. In 2016, the department released a statement reminding taxpayers "that any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam." It gave several examples of these attempts, including "Demanding payment for a 'Federal Student Tax,'" "Demanding immediate tax payment for taxes owed on an iTunes or other type of gift card," and "Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals."