Don’t fall for tax time scams


IF YOU get a sus­pi­cious phone call from some­one say­ing they are from the Aus­tralian Tax Of­fice, hang up im­me­di­ately.

It’s tax time, and the ATO is warn­ing peo­ple to be on the look­out for in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated scam­mers, many of whom are now im­i­tat­ing gen­uine ATO phone num­bers to fool caller IDs into look­ing le­git­i­mate.

Ac­cord­ing to the ATO, 48,084 scams were re­ported be­tween July and Oc­to­ber last year.

Al­ready this year, the tax of­fice has re­ceived more than 17,000 scam re­ports.

Of these, 113 Aus­tralians handed over $1.5 mil­lion to scam­mers, while 2500 pro­vided some sort of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion such as tax file num­bers.

“One vic­tim lost $900,000 to scam­mers over the course of sev­eral months, even bor­row­ing money from fam­ily and friends,” ATO As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Kath An­der­son said last month.

Mark Chap­man, di­rec­tor of tax com­mu­ni­ca­tions at H&R Block, said phone scams had be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar.

“Peo­ple fall for them sim­ply be­cause the ap­proach the scam­mers take is so ag­gres­sive,” he said.

“The caller ef­fec­tively says the client has an out­stand­ing debt and needs to pay it im­me­di­ately on pain of im­pris­on­ment.

“Peo­ple feel bul­lied into pay­ing.

“Typ­i­cally peo­ple who are called don’t have any kind of tax debt at all, and of course the ATO them­selves never adopt that ap­proach.”

Mr Chap­man said phone scams ap­peared to tar­get vic­tims ran­domly through cold-call­ing.

“I’ve called a few of these num­bers back in my time, they ap­pear to be quite so­phis­ti­cated op­er­a­tions with a sub­stan­tial num­ber of peo­ple in­volved,” he said.

“The num­ber comes through from what ap­pears to be an Aus­tralian land­line, but in re­al­ity it’s from a call cen­tre out­side Aus­tralia.”

He said email scams were also still prov­ing pop­u­lar.

“Once upon a time peo­ple would send an email say­ing you were due a re­fund from the ATO, ask­ing you to get in touch with credit card de­tails and they would pay,” Mr Chap­man said.

In ei­ther case, the so­lu­tion re­mains the same.

“If it’s an email, delete it. If it’s a phone call, put the phone down,” said Mr Chap­man.

“If you’re un­cer­tain as to whether it’s a gen­uine call or not, you can ac­tu­ally call the main ATO switch­board.”

Phone ATO on 13 28 65.


AVOID: Be care­ful of any calls from peo­ple say­ing they are from the ATO.

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