In 2022 Tax Tips

New Scam Targets Aussies Seeking Tax Claims

It seems that scammers are always one step ahead of the game, and their latest scheme specifically targets Australians looking to claim tax refunds. Dubbed the “fake ATO scam”, it works by fraudsters sending out fake emails which appear to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). 

These emails ask taxpayers to click on a link in order to receive their refund, but once you do this, you’re taken to a website where your personal information is stolen. So if you’re planning on claiming a tax refund this year, make sure you’re aware of this scam and take precautions against it. For more information, keep reading!

Scammers are always looking for new ways to take advantage of people, and their latest scheme is targeting Australians who are looking to make tax claims. The scam involves sending out emails that appear to be from the Australian Tax Office, with a link that supposedly takes you to the correct forms to fill out. However, the links actually lead to fake websites set up by the scammers, where you’re asked to enter your personal information. So if you’re planning on making a tax claim this year, be sure to watch out for this scam!

Scammers Playing The Saviours In New Scheme

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning about a spike in automated scam calls impersonating the ATO.

This new batch of scammers is claiming they’ve suspended their target’s tax file number (TFN) following suspected fraudulent activity.

Since 1 January 2021, the ATO has received 638 reports of this scam, with 7 victims paying out nearly $118,000.

Assistant Commissioner Trent Jakubowski said that “while the number of people paying these scammers is low, the large amounts being lost per person is alarming”.

“We’re seeing that instead of scammers asking for a specific amount of money, they’re requesting victims transfer every last dollar in their bank account.”

“What’s most malicious is that in some cases, these scammers are stealing money under the guise of saving it from other fraudsters trying to access their account,” Mr Jakubowski said.

Starting with a robo-call, the two common scripts have been:

  • Your TFN has been suspended as scammers have your TFN details. You need to transfer all your money to us in order to protect it while we sort it out, and
  • Your TFN has been used illegally, and you need to move all the money in your bank account to a holding account pending the outcome of legal action.

Young people between the ages of 18-24 have paid the most under this new tactic, with one person losing $36,000 just this week.

“This is a reminder for everyone to keep their guard up when answering an unexpected call. While we more often hear stories of older Australians being targeted by scammers, these devastating losses show that anyone can be a target,” Mr Jakubowski said.

The ATO does call taxpayers but will never:

  • send unsolicited pre-recorded phone messages
  • use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation
  • suspend your TFN
  • request direct transfers of money to a personal bank account
  • project our number onto your caller ID

If you receive a call, email or SMS and aren’t sure, it’s OK to hang up or not respond. Instead, phone the ATO’s dedicated scam line 1800 008 540 to check if it was legitimate. You can also report a scam online at ato.gov.au/reportascam.

Tax Scam: Impersonation Message Promises Australians New Year Returns

A new scam email is impersonating the Australian Government’s myGov website.

Scammers have flooded inboxes with myGov impersonation messages, using the new year to claim users are eligible for a tax return over $180.

“As a result of the examination, we have made adjustments to your income tax return for the year ending 12-2019. However, to protect you from identity theft, we need to verify your identity before we process the return and issue a refund,” the body of the message reads.

The email promises users that their refund will be complete within 21 days. ACCC’s Scamwatch has discovered the impersonation email and released a warning for Australians via Twitter.

The Department of Human Services warns Australians to be aware of the growing threat of scam emails, phone calls and SMS pretending to be from Government departments and agencies.

“The department won’t send links to your personal email address or by text message. However, the messages you get in your myGov Inbox are secure, and it’s safe to open links included in myGov Inbox messages,” according to the Department.

Australians are advised against:

  • sending personal information (e.g. Medicare number) or providing documents (e.g. identity documents) by email, SMS or social media;
  • transferring money or purchasing gift cards or vouchers;
  • providing passwords to bank accounts;
  • downloading files from the internet or email attachments; or
  • paying a fee to receive a payment or service

Tax Scam Warning As Hundreds Of Australians Are Targeted By Fraudsters

An urgent warning has been issued as scammers targeted at least 200 Australians while pretending to be the Australian Taxation Office in a new tax return scam.

The Government’s Scamwatch service raised the alarm on Wednesday to remind Australians the ATO will never threaten people with arrest.

‘The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest or send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to your phone.’

Scamwatch said these scams are common and used to frighten vulnerable people, including threatening to take their lives. 

‘The scammer may call you and pressure you into paying immediately, threaten you with arrest, or say they will send the police to your house if you refuse.’

Fraudsters are also known to ask for payments of outstanding tax debts while pretending to be from trusted organisations such as Australia Post, ATO and banks.

If the scam is sent by email, it commonly includes an attachment or link to a fake website to download or open a file that could infect computer malware. 

Scamwatch is encouraging Australians to remain vigilant and look for warning signs when they receive an ‘out of the blue call’ from alleged government officials. 

‘Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller. Instead, stop, think and check whether their story is true,’ Scamwatch said.

‘If you receive a phone call from someone threatening you and asking you to pay a fee, hang up and do not respond.’

Australians have already lost $511 071 as of January 2021, with 2,494 reports filed to Scamwatch.

A staggering 95% of scams that threaten a person’s life or immediate arrest are made over the phone.

How To Spot An Ato Scam:  

  • Send you an email or text message asking you to send us your information by email or text message.
  • Send you an email or text message with a link to log into online services.
  • Send a pre-recorded message saying the police are coming to arrest you or demanding urgent payment of money.
  • Ask for payment by bank transfers to:
  • A bank that is not the Reserve Bank of Australia  
  • Overseas wire transfers
  • iTunes or Google Play cards 
  • Cardless cash transfers
  • Cryptocurrency like Bitcoin 

ACMA Warning About Tax Phone Scams

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The ACMA is warning consumers to be wary of tax phone scams attempting to obtain personal or financial details.

There has been a spike in consumer reports to the ACMA as scammers seek to take advantage of Australians who are submitting tax returns or awaiting the outcome of an assessment.

Many tax scams occur over the phone. First, consumers will receive a scam call, commonly in the form of a ‘robo-call’ with a recorded message advising them to call about a fake outstanding tax debt or tax-related arrest warrant.

Scammers will pretend to be calling from the Australian Tax Office, Federal Police or other government departments to scare people into believing the call is legitimate. Some of these calls can be aggressive.

The ATO will never threaten you with arrest, demand immediate payment of a tax debt or fine, or tell you they will cancel or suspend your Tax File Number.

Consumers may also be targeted via email or SMS by scammers impersonating the ATO or other government departments advising that they are eligible to receive a tax refund.

These messages will commonly include links to click on to provide personal and/or financial information to receive fake refunds. The scammers then use the info to carry out a financial crime or identity theft.

People should only ever access online government services via a verified web address and/or an independent search, never via an unverified hyperlink in an email or SMS.

If someone contacts you about your tax, do not:

  • give out any personal information over the phone,
  • click on any links contained in messages, or
  • call any numbers provided.

November 2021 Phone And Email Scams – Superannuation

We’re concerned about an increase in scams involving fake superannuation investments.

Scammers are phoning and emailing people, pretending to be financial advisers or super experts. They are encouraging people to invest their super in a supposedly high performing self-managed super fund (SMSF).

These scammers will start by asking you for some information and may ask you to do a super comparison online. They are likely to be persistent and may contact you multiple times.

Sometimes, they will fraudulently use a real business’s name and Australian Financial Service Licence (AFSL) and set up a fake website to appear legitimate.

They will tell you there is no need for you to engage directly with the ATO, ASIC or any other tax or super professional.

If you agree to invest, they will transfer your super into bank accounts they control and disappear with it.

Even if you don’t agree to invest, if you provide them with enough personal information, they may use this to transfer your super from your existing account without you knowing, ultimately stealing your super savings.

Always check who you are dealing with before providing any personal or financial information.

Be cautious about anyone who contacts you with unsolicited financial advice:

  • Check ASIC’s Professional registers to make sure they are licensed professionals.
  • Conduct an online search to verify their identity independently and to see if there are any reviews or indications of scam activity related to their website, email address or phone number.
  • If in doubt, check with another registered tax professional.

If you receive an SMS, email or letters from the ATO about an SMSF that you did not establish, contact us on 13 10 20 immediately.

November 2021 Phone Scam – Fake Tax Debt

We’re reminding people to look out for phone scams about fake tax debts.

Scammers pretending to be from the ATO are calling people and telling them they have a tax debt that they need to pay straight away.

We will use phone, email and SMS to contact you. But we will never:

  • send a pre-recorded message to your phone
  • threaten you with immediate arrest
  • demand payment through unusual methods like gift cards or payments to personal bank accounts
  • insist you stay on the line until a payment is made.

If you receive an email like this, delete it. Don’t open the attachment or click on any links.

If you receive a message from the ATO asking for your personal information, phone us on 1800 008 540 to make sure it’s legitimate. If you think it’s fraudulent, report it by sending an email to [email protected]

You should never give out your personal information unless you are sure of who you are dealing with.

August 2021 Phone Scam – New Payment Methods

woman green pullover uses calculator

We’re receiving reports of scammers demanding money by new methods.

This includes things like:

  • ‘cardless cash’ ATM withdrawals
  • retail gift cards, such as JB hi-fi, Myer and Woolworths
  • courier services who collect the cash payments
  • cash delivery made in person at a pre-determined public location.

Scammers are trying to trick people into making payments by pretending to be from the ATO and other agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police.

They might tell you that your TFN has been suspended or compromised due to money laundering or other illegal activity, or that you owe a debt.

The real ATO will never demand payment by these methods. Therefore, you should always check legitimate ways to pay a tax debt on our website before making a payment.

If you have paid money to a scammer through one of the methods listed above or are concerned about your personal safety, report it to your local police straight away and specify all the details.

We also strongly encourage you to contact your financial institution immediately. In some cases, they may be able to stop a transaction or close your account if the scammer has your account details.

And remember, if you’re ever unsure whether an ATO contact is genuine, hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check.

May 2021 Email Scam – Update Your myGovID details

We’re receiving reports of a new email scam that asks people to update their myGov or myGovID details.

Scammers pretending to be from the ‘myGov customer care team’ are sending emails telling people they need to verify their identity by clicking on a link.

Don’t click any links and don’t provide the information requested.

The link goes to a fake myGov logon page designed to steal your personal information, including your passport and driver’s licence details.

You will get email or SMS notifications from myGov whenever new messages are in your myGov Inbox. However, these messages will never include a link to log on to your myGov account. Instead, always access our online services directly via one of the following:

  • my.gov.au
  • ato.gov.au
  • the ATO app.

When downloading the myGovID app, make sure it’s from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

If you receive an SMS or email that looks like it’s from myGov, but it contains a link or appears suspicious, you can report it to ScamWatch. If you have clicked on a link or provided your personal information, you can contact Services Australia’s Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk on 1800 941 126.

February 2021 Phone Scam – Suspended TFN

We are receiving increasing reports of people losing money to automated phone scams.

Scammers pretending to be from the ATO tell people their tax file number (TFN) has either been:

  • suspended due to illegal activity
  • compromised by a scammer.

They request that the call recipient either pay a fine to release their TFN or transfer all bank funds into a holding account to prevent future misuse.

We:

  • do not suspend TFNs
  • will never request you pay a fine or transfer money in order to protect your TFN pending legal action.

Phone calls from us do not show a number on the caller ID. In addition, we will never send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to your phone.

If you receive a phone call like this, hang up and not provide the requested information. However, if you’re unsure whether an ATO contact is genuine, phone us on 1800 008 540 to check.

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