Scam alert: This grandma who lost $5,000 thought she was speaking to ATO

When 67-year-old Glenice Harrison left the hospital after a nine-day treatment for pneumonia, she never thought she’d be a victim of
Photo credit: 9 News.

When 67-year-old Glenice Harrison left the hospital after a nine-day treatment for pneumonia, she never thought she’d be a victim of a vicious scam.

She had five voicemails from a person pretending to be from the Australian Taxation Office ordering her to pay up or go to jail, and not wanting to get into further trouble, she immediately returned their call.

When she returned the call, the scammers then ordered her to pay back a $9000 debt which Glenice thought could have been related to her small business.

Glenice questioned whether it was a joke or a scam, but was convinced when they had her details and told her she could report it to police but she would end up being arrested.

“I was getting hooked, deeper and deeper,” she said.

When she said she didn’t want to give her credit card details over the phone, they said she could pay using iTunes gift cards.

The phone call went over six hours as they coached Glenice in purchasing ten $500 iTunes cards from Woolworths stores in Oakleigh and Wheelers Hill. She then read out the activation codes back to the scammers after locking herself in her car, thinking that she was being watched.

“I was speaking to a male with an Indian accent, who was very authoritarian and seemed to have a very good knowledge of the tax system,” Glenice told 9 News.

“They assured me if I could pay back the monies owing my fraudulent activities would not be made public,” she said.

Ms Harrison reported the scam to police, it is unlikely that Glenice will recover her funds.

Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett labelled the scam “very cruel and vicious” and said it was extremely difficult to track, but warned others to be vigilant.

The ATO has issued a reminder that they will always make initial contact via mail and will never threaten with immediate arrest.


Have you heard about this scam? Have you ever been the victim of one?

  1. Lorraine  

    Someone rang me and left a message saying they were from the Ato and they were investigating a tax non payment I reported it to scam watch and never rang back, had another one from someone saying they were from Telstra it dept, told then what they can do with their it department. Both had Indian accents one had a strange number and the other was a private number.

  2. Jennifer Rooke  

    Is this woman for “real” what a dope!!!!!
    She gives anyone over 60 years of age the impression that we are all pushovers…get real!!!

    • Jude Power  

      Yeah, I would’ve thought everyone had heard about this scam by now, it’s been going around for ages. I can’t believe anyone believed the ATO would want you to pay back taxes with Itunes cards!!!

  3. I am 76 i have fun with them sometimes I let them talk for a bit then threaten the police other times I just hang up !

  4. These scams are reported via Media and T.V saying “If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is” Hang up on these scum bags. So far I have been lucky (no phone calls) and as the ATO says they do not contact people this way the same with the banks, I have had many emails from different banks telling me to “click” here to update my banking details, Ha, Ha I might be 80 but I didn’t come down in the last shower, I have contacted the banks and told them about the email and they give me an email address to send the mail to them, let their computer people handle the matter.

  5. facebook_elda.quinton  

    The best way is don’t hang up but just put the phone in a cupboard for an hour.

  6. Joan Marshall  

    Thanks For The Reminder very aware of this scam. My home phone is silent and if do get anyone on my mobile I just hang up.

  7. Neville Allen  

    There is another similar scam doing the rounds – you get a phone call from the “Australian Federal Police” saying they have issued an arrest warrant due to unpaid traffic fines and you need to pay the fine immediately or be arrested. (a) the Feds do not phone and warn you that you are about to be arrested and (b) the Feds do not have anything to do with traffic issues.

  8. I’m always astonished at how gullible people are and how freely they part with their hard earned money. Everyone who pays tax must know that the ATO doesn’t call and ask for money – especially in iTunes gift cards.
    For heaven’s sake people – wake up and think!

    • I am also amazed at how dense people are its over TV all the time, I sometimes wonder what planet they are living on, then they come on here and main about it, like its something new!!!

  9. For those of you who are being ultra critical & judgemental of this poor lady – just remember she’s just come out of hospital with pneumonia & hardly in a position to be thinking clearly or logically.
    Have a heart people!
    There are many scams abounding & some of them sound quite legitimate sometimes. I received an ATO phone call & it was delivered in a perfectly ordinary voice/accent & the issue of the warrant to arrest was delivered almost humorously – quite incredible really.

    • Terri Rice  

      So agree Judith – this poor lady was not well – needs time to recover. To then receive scam calls is not good.
      We have learnt over the years that they either come from a private number or an ( 02) number ( Sydney) – but it is not Sydney – it’s still overseas – but these scumbags know how to show their calls as coming from OUR country. My question is , why can’t they be blocked ? – we have blocked call, but unfortunately it cannot stop overseas calls from these criminals. Personally we find it unbelievable that our country have not found ( or even tried to) stop these scam calls by both phone & email from these low life’s who are wrecking some vulnerable people’s lives.

  10. Peter Smith  

    I had the same call. I let him waste his time and breath telling i must call him on 0260642057 Jason Oconner of the ATO. or a police officer from my local station will be on my doorstep with a warrant for my arrest. I said i will be waiting and HUNG UP With a few parting words 😀

  11. Meggsie  

    Stupid woman..These scams are on tv nearly every week.I was contacted by them two or three times Just ignore them

  12. I reported this scam to my telco and the ATO. Even got their number. I can’t understand why they haven’t been caught yet.

    • lurch  

      Troble is most of the scams start oversea vis a computer loged into our phone system, even if you have their phone number that proves nothing as they outside of AU. If the call sounds suss hang up or leave the phone off the hook and go next for a cuppa.

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