ATO impersonation scams catching out taxpayers

News, Published: 4/04/2019

The Australian Tax office (ATO) has warned taxpayers to be on “high alert” for tax related scams. The ATO claims ATO impersonations are still claiming victims as tax payers have lost more than $250,000 in March 2019 alone through paying “tax debts” to scammers.

These malicious scammers are using increasingly sophisticated methods and technology to impersonate the ATO and/or your tax agent(s). In recent months they have adopted a new tactic called “spoofing” whereby the scammers mimic a legitimate ATO and/or your tax agents(s) phone number visible on caller ID to call or send text messages to taxpayers, or mimic a legitimate email domain to send emails. The common methods these scammers are use are still the “fake tax debt” phone scam, but the ATO is also seeing an increase in “fake refund” or “refund for a fee” scams, and email and SMS scams enticing people to click a hyperlink, download a file or open an attachment.

The nature of these text message and emails ask the recipient to follow a link and provide their personal details in order to obtain an alleged “refund” from the ATO. Alternatively, the scammers may demand the taxpayer to pay a fake tax debt. The ATO has also warned tax payers to be vigilant to who they disclose their personal information to, as on some occasions the objective of these scammers is not exclusively to steal your money but also your identity.

Often the scammers will hold enough personal information about the tax payers to come across genuine. Occasionally ATO legitimately contacts taxpayers via phone calls, text messages and email so it is important for tax payers to recognise tell-tale signs to suss out whether they're legit or not.

The ATO does not send emails or text messages and demand taxpayers to provide details such as login, personal or financial information, or to download a file, open an attachment or install software. The ATO also does not behave aggressively or threaten taxpayers with arrest, jail or deportation, nor does it ask taxpayers to pay ATO debts via iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards or cryptocurrency (e.g. Bitcoin).

Gordon Q.C Du & Associates provides the following recommendations if you are contacted by anyone claiming to be from the ATO:

•If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the ATO, note down their information and contact the ATO (using to validate their identity and their request.

•By no means give your personal, credit card or online account details over phone or email.

•If you have doubts about the legitimacy of a phone call, it’s OK to hang up and phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or report a scam.

•If you receive an email claiming to be from the ATO, DO NOT click on any links, open any attachments, or respond to the sender. These emails may harmful to your IT device and your information.

•If you think you have provided sensitive or personal information to a scammer, contact the ATO’s Identity Support Centre immediately on 1800 467 033.