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.