WARNING: Scams targeting ATO Customers

Posted on 26th October 2018 by Christabelle Harris

With the busy tax season in full swing, there is a heightened amount of fraudulent activity targeting Australians. The ATO reported more than 37,000 scam attempts last year during tax time. While many people were alert and didn’t fall for the scams, more than $630,000 was handed over to scammers.

In years gone by, we have seen the following scams.

Phone scam – voicemail

Scammers are leaving voicemail messages threatening the recipients with arrest due to an unknown tax debt or suspected tax evasion.  The scammers claim to be from the ATO and may threaten that a warrant for the person’s arrest will be issued if they do not call the scammer back on the phone number provided.

Email scam – tax refund review

Scammers are sending fake ATO emails asking completion of a ‘tax refund review’ form to receive a refund.  The form asks for online banking credentials, credit card numbers and limits, and personal address information.  Do not click nor save the attachment as it may download malicious malware onto your computer.  Do not disclose the personal information the form is requesting.

Phone scam – fake debts & refunds

ATO phone impersonation scams have been widely reported.  The scammers may tell you:

  • a complaint has been made against you and you are committing tax fraud
  • that you have to pay a debt that you know nothing about
  • that you may be immediately arrested if you don’t pay the debt straight away
  • to pay the debt using unusual methods of payment that the ATO does not use such as iTunes, Bitcoin, store gift cards or pre-paid visa cards
  • you are owed a tax refund but you have to provide a personal credit card number for the funds to be deposited into.

This year it seems we are exposed to fake text messages sent by the ‘ATO’ giving people false information about their tax, in particular their refunds. Below is an example of the text messages these scammers are sending to the public:

George received a text message from ‘ATO Refund’ saying there’s a tax refund of $275 for him to claim. All he needed to do was click on the website link and log in with his phone number and the PIN number provided in the message. He was asked to fill in personal details and provide his Tax File Number (TFN) and credit card number (including the 3-digit code from the back of his card) so his refund could be deposited into his account.

Another version of this scams asks people to pay a small fee via their personal debit/credit cards to receive the refund, which leads to the scammers being able to deduct large sums of money from your accounts within days.

The ATO have identified the main components of these scams which include:

  • Appears to come from the ATO
  • Tell you your eligible for a refund and you need to respond
  • Ask you to pay a fee to receive a refund
  • Contain hyperlinks that lead to a fake website or a fake login page
  • Instruct you to click on a link to submit a form with personal information
  • Lead to money being stolen from your credit/debit card account
  • Ask for personal information including TFN or credit card details

If you are unsure if you are on the receiving end of a scam, contact your accountant at GeersSullivan and we will contact the ATO on your behalf.

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