Scams on the rise, warns ATO

THE Australian Tax Office warns taxpayers to be on high alert to scammers, with more than $800,000 reportedly lost during the month of November.

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said over the last month, the ATO has seen an increase in scam phone calls, especially those using software that resembles a legitimate phone number to disguise the caller’s true identity.

“The ATO does not project our numbers using caller ID. You can be confident that if there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it isn’t the ATO,” Ms Anderson said.

The ATO received more than 37,000 reports of scam attempts in November,

One elderly person lost more than $236,000 to scammers between June and November this year.

Ms Anderson urged people to be aware of scammers pretending to be from the ATO.”

“Taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message, email or letter about a tax refund or debt, especially if you weren’t expecting it,” she said.

Ms Anderson said while the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that it isn’t the ATO. The ATO will not:

  • use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation;
  • request payment of a debt via iTunes, pre-paid visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a bank account with a BSB that isn’t either 092-009 or 093-003;
  • request a fee in order to release a refund owed to you; or
  • send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment.

“If you suspect that you have been contacted by a scammer, you should contact our call centre. It's OK to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or to report a scam,” Ms Anderson said.

“While phone scams are the most common at the moment, scammers are constantly changing tactics.

“Taxpayers should still beware of unsolicited emails and SMS, with more than 6,000 people handing over their personal or financial information to scammers since July this year.

“Taxpayers play an important role in stopping scammer activity by reporting them to our scam line. Your reports help us to get an accurate picture of what is happening with the current scams, which ultimately helps protect the Australian community.”

The ATO’s dedicated scam reporting line is 1800 008 540.

How to protect yourself from scammers

  • Know your tax affairs – you can log into myGov to check your tax affairs at any time, or you can contact your tax agent or the ATO;
  • Guard personal and financial information. Be careful when you clickg on links, download files or open attachments. Only give personal information to people you trust. Don’t share it on social media; 
  • If you are unsure a call, text message or email is genuine, don’t reply. Call the ATO on 1800 008 540;
  • Know the legitimate ways to make payments. Scammers may use threatening tactics to trick victims into paying false debts with pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check whether a payment method is legitimate, visit ato.gov.au/howtopay
  • Talk to your family and friends. If you or someone you know falls victim to a tax related scam, call the ATO.