The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers pretending to be from the ATO, with more than $800,000 reportedly lost during November.
Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said the thieves use software that resembles a legitimate phone number to disguise their identities before threatening people with jail or deportation if they do not pay up.
“The ATO does not project our numbers using caller ID. You can be confident that if there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it isn’t the ATO,” Anderson said.
The ATO received more than 37,000 reports of scam attempts in November, with one elderly person losing more than $236,000 over six months.
“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,” she added.
Tax time is particularly busy for scams as fraudsters try to fool people into believing they owe the tax department a debt.
Anderson said while the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there were some tell-tale signs it isn’t the tax office. The ATO will not:
She said if you’ve received an unsolicited email or text to get in contact with the ATO immediately.
“If you suspect that you have been contacted by a scammer, you should contact our call centre. It’s OK to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or to report a scam,” Anderson said.
Since July 1, the ATO has seen almost 6,000 taxpayers give away their personal or financial information to scammers through things like phishing scams. The tax authority said payments through Bitcoin ATMs have now overtaken iTunes vouchers as the most common method of scam payment reported to the ATO.
Earlier this year, the ATO released a list of the top phone numbers scammers asked people to call them back on. If someone asks you to call them on one of these numbers, report them to ScamWatch.