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.