The Australian Taxation Office is warning Aussies of a caller ID impersonation scamming technique known as “spoofing” in the lead up to tax time as scammers continue to find inventive ways to con you out of your hard earned cash.
“People should be wary of emails, phone calls and SMS during tax time that claim to be from the ATO, even if it seems legitimate,” warned Kath Anderson, assistant commissioner.
“The large number of people lodging their tax returns means scammers are particularly active, so it’s important to keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious and protect your private information.”
For most of us, when an unknown number pops up on our phone, the first instinct is to not answer but Anderson said if the real ATO was ringing, the number would show up on caller ID as “unknown” or “blocked”.
“Scammers locate genuine ATO numbers from our website and project these numbers in their caller ID in an attempt to legitimise their call,” she said.
“[This] is a form of impersonation known as ‘spoofing’…if [a phone number] appears, it’s most likely a scam. If you’re ever unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, call us. If it’s real, we will connect you with the right area of the ATO.”
More than 48,000 scams were reported to the ATO between July and October last year and the number is on the rise according to Anderson.
“We have already seen a five-fold increase in scams from January to May this year and typically expect further increases during the tax time period,” she said.
“Already this year, the ATO has registered over 17,067 scam reports. Of these, 113 Australians handed over $1.5 million to fraudsters with about 2,500 providing some form of personal information, including tax file numbers.”
Anderson told a cautionary tale of one victim who lost close to $1M to scammers over the course of several months, even borrowing money from family and friends.
The ATO offered the following tips to avoid being scammed at tax time: