Australians are being targeted in a tax scam through threatening automated phone calls in which scammers ask for bank details or demand payment to the Australian Tax Office.
The biggest giveaway is the fact that the voice on the other end of the line is robotic and automated, but the calls can be convincing because the scammers use internet technology to replicate legitimate ATO phone numbers.
The voice will tell the person on the other end of the line that there are irregularities in their tax statements and that they should call a particular person on a particular number.
The voice will aggressively tell the person that the issue is very time sensitive if they do not get in touch with the ‘ATO’, that action will be taken against them.
The ATO says scammers increase their activity around tax time and that this year has seen a five-fold increase in scams. If there are any problems with your tax status, the ATO will normally contact your registered accountant first. There are other scams that are also doing the rounds claiming to be related to retirement plans, grants and tax refunds.
If such phone calls are received, the safest thing to do is to put the phone down immediately and report the matter to the ATO.
The ATO will never:
- threaten you with immediate arrest
- ask you to pay money to receive a refund or payment
- ask you to pay a debt via iTunes vouchers, or prepaid credit card or store gift cards
- ask you to provide personal information, such as your tax file number (TFN) or credit card number, via email or SMS
- ask you to pay money into a personal bank account
- direct you to download files from the internet, or open attachments in unsolicited emails
Once they have your information, scammers may use it to:
- access your bank accounts
- take out loans in your name
- lodge false tax returns or BAS statements
- claim Centrelink or other benefits.
How to report a scam
If you think you are a victim of a tax scam, you should call the ATO on 1800 008 540 (8.00am–6.00pm, Monday–Friday) as soon as possible.
If you receive a suspicious email claiming to be from the ATO, do not click on any links, open attachments or respond to the sender. Forward the entire email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au without changing or adding any additional information and delete from your inbox and sent folder.
If you wish to report a tax scam outside ATO working hours, you can do so via Scamwatch. If you have been impacted by cybercrime you can report this through the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).
You should also contact your bank or financial institution if you think a scammer has your credit card details. The ATO has a set of guidelines published on its website to help identify a tax scam.
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