High sea­son for tax scam­mers

Southern Gazette (Belmont) - - OPINION -

CON­SUMER Pro­tec­tion is urg­ing peo­ple not to fall vic­tim to tax scam­mers so­lic­it­ing money via phone calls.

Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice (ATO), 56 vic­tims re­ported los­ing more than $258,000 to phone-based tax scams in WA in 2016. Al­ready this year, eight vic­tims have re­ported los­ing more than $15,000 to ATO im­per­son­ation scam call­ers.

Since Jan­uary 2016, a to­tal of 8890 West­ern Aus­tralians have re­ported be­ing con­tacted by tax scam­mers over the phone, with most re­ports in the months of April, May, June and July.

Tar­gets re­ceive a phone call or a robotic-recorded mes­sage from a scam­mer pur­port­ing to be from the ATO de­mand­ing pay­ment for an out­stand­ing tax debt. Of­ten they be­come ag­gres­sive, threat­en­ing ar­rest or the seizure of as­sets if there is no im­me­di­ate pay­ment.

Vic­tims are asked to with­draw the money from their bank and send it over­seas by money trans­fer ser­vices such as West­ern Union or Ali­pay. Oth­ers are asked to load money on a pre­pay card at the post of­fice or do a bank trans­fer to a third-party bank ac­count op­er­ated by the scam­mers or by an un­sus­pect­ing money mule un­der their con­trol.

Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion act­ing com­mis­sioner David Hill­yard said there was another pay­ment method that scam­mers have been de­mand­ing re­cently.

“In the past year, scam­mers have been ask­ing some of their vic­tims to pay the sup­posed tax debt by pur­chas­ing iTunes vouch­ers which, in many cases, can to­tal sev­eral thou­sands of dol­lars in value,” Mr Hill­yard said.

If you have been con­tacted by the ATO and want to con­firm the le­git­i­macy of the con­tact, take note of the caller’s name and de­tails, then call 1800 008 540.

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