Over recent months, an alarming number of Australians have been targeted by telephone scammers pretending to be calling from the ATO. Their potential victims are faced with threats of large fines, court or jail time if they don’t pay up immediately. While this is not a new scam, the tactics employed to falsify plausibility have recently increased in sophistication, making it more likely for people to be tricked. Scammers are now using technology to make it look like their 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 number appearing is 6216 1111, but other numbers have been used as well.
Scammers have also been impersonating accountants and tax agents. A recent example of this saw a victim called by a scammer who then supposedly ‘dialled-in’ the victim’s accountant’s office. Stating that his usual accountant wasn’t available, a second scammer went on to agree that the victim did indeed owe money to the ATO and needed to pay immediately. In a state of panic, the victim then went to a Bitcoin machine and deposited the money for the fraudster.
In addition, there have been reports of scammers telling potential victims that they are due a tax refund and asking for a credit card number to deposit the money onto. However, no refund is forthcoming, instead the scammers steal funds from these cards without the knowledge of the card holder.
In order to stay safe, remember that a legitimate caller from the ATO will never:
- 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
- arrange to pay a refund to a credit card
Other warning signs include:
- Telling you a complaint has been made against you, that you are committing tax fraud or that you have to pay a debt that you know nothing about
- Threatening immediate arrest or court if you don’t call them back or pay straight away
- Unwillingness to provide explanations or allow you to ask questions about the debt – often accompanied by aggression or abusiveness
- Request for payment using unusual methods of payment that the ATO does not use such as: iTunes cards, Bitcoin cryptocurrency, store gift cards or pre-paid visa cards
- Request for a credit card number over the phone
As your tax agent, the ATO will often contact us as well as you.
Remember, if in doubt:
- It’s OK to hang up
- Call us. As your tax agents we look after your affairs so can advise you
- Call the ATO directly on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or to report a scam.
At AustAsia Group, are always here to help. Should you have any further enquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact us on (08) 9227 6300 or .
Important information and disclaimer
This publication has been prepared by AustAsia Accounting Services Pty Ltd Registered Tax Agent No 7587 3005.
Any advice in this publication is of a general nature only and has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. Accordingly, reliance should not be placed on the information contained in this document as the basis for making any financial investment, insurance or other decision. Please seek personal advice prior to acting on this information.
Information in this publication is accurate as at the date of writing, 7 November 2018. In some cases the information has been provided to us by third parties. While it is believed the information is accurate and reliable, the accuracy of that information is not guaranteed in any way.
Opinions constitute our judgement at the time of issue and are subject to change. Neither the Licensee nor any member of AustAsia Group, nor their employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy, not accept any responsibility for errors or omissions in this document.
Any general tax information provided in this publication is intended as a guide only and is based on our general understanding of taxation laws. It is not intended to be a substitute for specialised taxation advice or an assessment of your liabilities, obligations or claim entitlements that arise, or could arise, under taxation law, and we recommend you consult with a registered tax agent.