Savvy scammers exploiting tax deadlines to target Aussies

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning the community about scammers taking advantage of tax payment deadlines to scam unsuspecting victims.

Late last year, it reported the biggest ever peak in money being lost to scammers pretending to be from the ATO. Around $2 million was lost from November 2018 to January this year.

Assistant Commissioner, Karen Foat said, “I’m particularly concerned about the sophistication these scammers keep showing. They are getting better at impersonating large organisations and ramp up in periods where people expect to hear from us, to make their threats appear more legitimate.

“While some taxpayers will have tax payments due from November, the ATO will always let you know how much you owe and the due date when we send your notice of assessment,” Foat said. “If you’re unsure, you can check if you have a legitimate debt anytime by logging into your myGov account, or by contacting us or your tax agent.”

While the ATO noted an increase in the number of people reporting scams and a decrease in the number of people handing over money to scammers, any money going to scammers is still seen by the agency as “too much.”

“We see these ATO impersonation scams by phone, email, SMS and even through message apps such as WhatsApp, Foat said. “We’ve also recently spotted scammers using the cardless cash feature offered by many banks. Through this feature, victims are sent codes to withdraw cash from an ATM, which they then read out to the scammer.

“In October, we also saw a spike in email and SMS scams, often asking people to update their personal details. These scams usually contain links to fake online services to get personal information that enables scammers to steal your identity.”

The ATO reminded the public that it will never do the following:

  • use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation
  • project their number onto caller ID – so people can be sure that if there’s a number on their caller ID, it’s not the ATO calling
  • request payment of a debt via cardless cash, iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency, or direct credit to a personal bank account
  • send an email or SMS requesting you click on a hyperlink to log on to government services.

Anyone who receives a call, email or SMS and isn’t sure may report such incidents to the ATO’s dedicated scam line 1800 008 540 or at the website ato.gov.au/reportascam to check if it was legitimate.

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