The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning taxpayers to be on alert for scammers impersonating the ATO, as scammers change tactics in 2019. “This scam is not just targeting your money but is after your personal information in an attempt to steal your identity."
Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat said scammers have been developing new ways to get taxpayers’ money and personal information over the summer break.
“We are seeing the emergence of a new scam, where scammers are using an ATO number to send fraudulent SMS messages to taxpayers asking them to click on a link and hand over their personal details in order to obtain a refund,” she said.
The ATO received "many reports" in 2018 of scammers manipulating the calling line identification so the phone number that appears is different to the number from which the call originated. This is known as “spoofing” and is a common technique used by scammers in an attempt to make their interactions with taxpayers appear legitimate.
“This scam is not just targeting your money but is after your personal information in an attempt to steal your identity,” said Ms Foat. “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.”
While the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that it isn’t the ATO.
For instance, the ATO will not:
- 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;
- use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation;
- request payment of a debt via iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account; or
- request a fee in order to release a refund owed to you.
“If you are unsure about a call, text message or email that you have received, don’t reply. It's OK to slow down and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the contact was legitimate or to report a scam,” Ms Foat said.
“The community plays an important role in stopping scammer activities 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 scam reporting line is 1800 008 540.
Top tips to protect yourself from scammers
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.
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.
If you are unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, don’t reply. Call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to verify.
Know legitimate ways to make payments – scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying false debts via pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, visit www.ato.gov.au/howtopay
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.