Scams played on iTune cards
with Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard PHONE scammers, posing as the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and threatening to arrest people over tax debts that do not exist, are causing public anxiety and monetary loss in WA.
The scam has been around for years but an unusual new element involves iTunes cards as a payment method.
In recent days, a 52-year-old woman from Mandurah reported to Consumer Protection that she had bought more than $7000 worth of iTunes cards from a Woolworths store to pay off a supposed tax debt and avoid arrest.
She responded in panic to an answer-phone message on her landline that she thought was from the ATO. A subsequent mobile phone call lasted four hours – the scammer falsely claimed the woman was being monitored, that her bank accounts would be seized if she did not co-operate and that iTunes cards could be used as bonds.
Ways to pay the ATO can be found on their official website: www.ato.gov.au. It does not accept payment in the form of iTunes cards.
It also does not make urgent, aggressive calls and would write to you in the first instance if there was any tax issue they needed to resolve with you. Staff would never phone out-of-the-blue to say you will be taken into custody unless you make payment to them immediately.
If you or anyone you know receives a phone call supposedly from the ATO threatening arrest or legal action over an unpaid tax debt, do not be afraid.
Our advice is to put the phone down. If you speak with scammers, you enable them to obtain information from you to help them target you further.
Do not respond to numbers supplied in an automated call and delete any messages left on an answer-phone or voicemail service.
Finally, speak to someone you trust about the scam call to put your mind at ease. You can call the ATO on 1800 008 540 or WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54. Either of our agencies will confirm it is a scam and you are not in any trouble.
A way to fight back is to talk with relatives, neighbours and other people in our community who could be at risk.
If you work somewhere that sells iTunes gift cards and someone tries to buy thousands of dollars-worth in one transaction perhaps you could gently warn them about scams or offer to call us at Consumer Protection.
You can also spread the word via social media by sharing Consumer Protection WA’s Facebook posts and tweets.