Tax time is just around the corner, which means ATO impersonators are pulling out their bag of tricks to try and scam you. Here are the main scams currently doing the rounds.
It’s fair to say that no one likes getting on the wrong side of the ATO. And this is one of the main reasons why ATO tax scams are so effective.
The other main reason is that these scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy.
Not only do they look more convincing, but they’re also reaching more people through a wider number of distribution channels, such as SMS, robo-calls, and emails.
Below we’ve outlined some of the latest scams to ensure your monthly budget, mortgage repayments or savings account doesn’t get thrown into disarray.
Fake tax agent (phone scam)
The scam: a scammer pretending to be from the ATO sets up a three-way phone call between themselves, the victim and another scammer, who pretends to be an accountant who works at the same practice as the victim’s tax agent (the fake tax agent advises that the victim’s actual tax agent is currently unavailable).
The two scammers then work together to convince the victim that they owe thousands of dollars to the ATO, and that they need to immediately pay off the debt to avoid going to jail.
They’ll then ask the victim to pay using unusual methods of payment such as iTunes, Bitcoin cryptocurrency, store gift cards or pre-paid visa cards.
Avoid being scammed: know the status of your tax affairs by checking your details via myGov. Or hang up and independently call your tax agent or the ATO on 1800 008 540.
Extra tip: a variation of this scam is when the scammer offers a tax refund but advises that you have to provide a personal credit card number for the funds to be deposited into. Instead of the scammer depositing money they’ll instead steal funds from these cards.
Tax refund notification (SMS scam)
The scam: scammers are texting people informing them that they are due to receive a tax refund.
However, if you click on the link it will take you to a fake ‘Tax Refund’ form, where it will ask you to fill out your personal information (which the scammers will then steal!).
Avoid being scammed: the ATO doesn’t have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form and will never send you an email or SMS that asks you to access online services via a hyperlink.
Extra tip: all online management of your tax affairs should be carried out via your genuine myGov account, which you should only ever access by typing out my.gov.au into your URL address bar.
Imitating ATO phone numbers (phone scam)
The scam: the ATO is reporting an increased number of scammers contacting people using phone numbers that make it look like they’re genuinely from the ATO.
The numbers that have been appearing most frequently are 6216 1111 and 1800 467 033, but numbers for individual ATO staff members have been used as well.
The scammer will usually claim the potential victim has an outstanding tax debt and threaten them with arrest if it’s not paid immediately. Sometimes voicemail messages are left.
Avoid being scammed: remember that the ATO will never threaten you with arrest, demand immediate payment, refuse to allow you to speak with a trusted advisor or tax agent, or present a phone number on caller ID.
Extra tip: never call a scammer back on the number they provide. If you are in any doubt about an ATO call, hang up and phone the ATO directly (on 1800 008 540) to check if the call was legitimate.
myGov tax refund notification (email scam)
The scam: scammers are emailing people from a fake myGov email address, asking them to fill out an application to receive a tax refund – similar to the SMS scam above.
This scam is currently tricking victims because it displays the ATO’s myGov logo and the links look as though they’ll send you to the myGov website (spoiler: they don’t).
Avoid being scammed: do not click anywhere in these emails as they contain malicious links. As mentioned in the SMS scam, the ATO doesn’t have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form.
Extra tip: if the bottom of the suspected scammer’s email contains a line that says ‘If you feel you received this email by mistake or wish to unsubscribe, click here’, don’t click. It’s most likely another nefarious link.
If you ever suspect that you’re being scammed, don’t feel obliged to stay on the phone to be polite.
Simply hang up the phone straight away (or close the email) and either check your myGov account or directly contact your accountant or financial adviser.