The ATO is warning taxpayers to be on high alert to scammers, with over $800,000 reportedly lost during November.
Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said over the last month, the ATO has seen an increase in scam phone calls, especially those using software that resembles a legitimate phone number to disguise the caller’s true identity.
“The ATO does not project our numbers using caller ID. You can be confident that if there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it isn’t the ATO,” Ms Anderson said.
According to Ms Anderson, the ATO received more than 37,000 reports of scams attempts in November alone, with one elderly person losing more than $236,000 to scammers between June and November this year.
Ms Anderson urged people to be aware of scammers pretending to be the ATO. “Taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message, email or letter about a tax refund or debt, especially if you weren’t expecting it,” she said.
Ms Anderson said while the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that it isn’t the ATO. The ATO will not:
- use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation;
- request payment of a debt via iTunes, pre-paid visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a bank account with a BSB that isn’t either 092-009 or 093-003;
- request a fee in order to release a refund owed to you; or
- send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment.
“If you suspect that you have been contacted by a scammer, you should contact our call centre. It’s OK to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or to report a scam,” Ms Anderson said.
“While phone scams are the most common at the moment, scammers are constantly changing tactics. Taxpayers should still beware of unsolicited emails and SMS, with more than 6000 people handing over their personal or financial information to scammers since July this year.
“Australians play an important role in stopping scammer activity by reporting them to our scam line. Your reports help us to get an accurate picture of what is happening with the current scams, which ultimately helps protect the Australian community.”
The ATO’s dedicated scam reporting line is 1800 008 540.
To see our latest alerts and for more information visit ato.gov.au/scams.
Top tips to protect yourself from scammers
1. Know your tax affairs – you can log into myGov to check your tax affairs at any time, or you can contact your tax agent or the ATO.
2. Guard your personal and financial information – be careful when clicking on links, downloading files or opening attachments. Only give your personal information to people you trust, and try not to share it on social media.
3. If you are unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, don’t reply. Call the ATO on 1800 008 540.
4. Know legitimate ways to make payments – scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying false debts in pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, visit ato.gov.au/howtopay.
5. Talk to your family and friends about scams – if you or someone you know has fallen victim to a tax related scam, call the ATO as soon as you can.