High season for tax scammers
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.