That’s Not The ATO On The Phone

That’s Not The ATO On The Phone

There’s a new scam in town to be wary of. People are receiving calls and text messages that purport to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Sometimes the calls relate to debt recovery while other times it’s about how to access your tax refund. Here are the warning signs to be wary of.

The latest scam has been outlined in detail on the ATO website:

We are seeing an increased number of reports of scammers contacting members of the public pretending to be from the ATO and claiming that there are outstanding tax debts and threatening people with arrest if the debt is not paid immediately.

Scammers are using technology to make it look like the calls originate from a legitimate ATO phone number. This number may appear on caller ID, be left on voice mail messages for call backs, or directed by *69 for call back functionality. Scammers do this to make the calls seem more valid when they call people a second time. Most frequently the numbers appearing are 6216 1111 and 1800 467 033, but numbers for individual ATO staff members have been used as well.

As outlined above, the scammer requests a payment transfer, sometimes threatening jail time if the victim refuses to cooperate. They may also claim that federal police have already been assigned to the case.

According to the ATO, if the supposed tax agent does any of the following, alarm bells should be ringing:

  • threaten you with arrest
  • demand immediate payment, particularly through unusual means such as bitcoin, pre-paid credit cards or gift cards
  • refuse to allow you to speak with a trusted advisor or your regular tax agent
  • present a phone number on caller ID

In addition, scammers have been contacting potential victims via SMS. Recipients are asked to click on a link and provide personal identifying information to receive their tax refund. Needless to say, you should not click on these links.

“The ATO does not have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form and we will never send an email or SMS asking you to access online services via a hyperlink,” the ATO explains on its website.

As with most scams, the elderly and non-English speakers are most at risk, so be on the lookout. You can check the validity of a phone call or SMS by calling 1800 008 540. You can find more information here.


  • Love speaking to them. Oh hi, Officer Sam Wilson, badge number 456789. So you are going to arrest me if I don’t pay in Google gift cards. You know what, sounds all very legit and I’m sorry I tripped you up on your script reading and confused you. Right, I am a mofo who is wasting your time and you want to do what to my mom.

  • I got one of these calls and he threatened me with arrest if I don’t pay right there and then. Then he proceeded to ask for identifying information. I said to him that since he had called me, he obviously had all my details, including my TFN, with which he could look me up to verify my details. He immediately hung up.

    I called back several times and said I didn’t want to be arrested so someone should please help me settle my tax debt to the ATO. Each time I got a different person, and as soon as they heard that I was asking them to look me up using my TFN, they hung up. After a few tries, they seemed to block my number. Problem solved! I haven’t received a call since.

  • I received a call from an undisclosed number, The guy claimed to be from ATO. He had an Indian name but he spoke with a very Australian accent.

    I said “Yeah. Right”.

    Then he told me the call was about my mother’s missed quarterly PAYG payment and he quoted her full name. She’s 93 and she’s supposed to give the notices to me for payment but sometimes she “misplaces” letters.

    I said that I had previously registered her bank account details for a direct debit. I knew that the ATO will only do one off DDs; not automatically ever quarter – Really? Why not? I asked whether they could use them to make the payment and he said they could.

    I asked whether he got hung up on a lot and he said yes.

    Three months later I got a call from a woman who claimed to be from the ATO. My mother had missed another payment! I switched notices to email to my email address.

    I tell this story to let you know that not all calls from the ATO are scams.

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