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Scammers posing as ATO

From time to time the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) may contact you by phone, but you should be wary of unsolicited phone calls claiming to be from the ATO and offering you a tax refund or aggressively demanding a payment.

Hear ATO's Commissioner Geoff Leeper's warning.

Increasingly, these scams are using names and addresses that have some correlation to actual ATO officers and buildings.  If in doubt about the authenticity of a call you receive from the ATO, you should contact the ATO to verify the legitimacy of the call.

There are many ways the scammers try to trap you into believing them see Australian Taxation Office examples.  You can also listen to a recordings of messages we have managed to find:

There are a few warning signs people should take note of. Firstly, an ATO officer would not be threatening and intimidating on a call or demand payment in this manner.  Secondly, the ATO only accept payments to be made by legitimate traceable methods and not in unconventional ways such as iTunes cards or cash transfers.  Thirdly, the return phone number is a NSW number rather than a national toll free number.

If you do have an ATO debt, you will only be asked to pay in writing first and by using one of the ways listed on the ATO's how to pay page on their website.   They will never ask for payments in the form of an iTunes card, pre-paid debit cards, electronic payment vouchers (e.g. Ukash), or wire transfer (eg. Western Union or Moneygram).  

Contact the ATO

If you are unsure, please contact the ATO by visiting their website or by calling 1800 008 540.

Latest reports - iTunes cards 

In May 2016, the scammers request payment by iTunes cards.  

The following cases reported to WA ScamNet:

  • On 6 May 2016 a 52-year-old Mandurah woman reported to Consumer Protection that she had bought about $7,000 worth of iTunes cards from a Woolworths store ($3,000 on credit card and the rest with cash) to pay phone scammers threatening her with a fabricated unpaid tax debt. It started after she responded to a threatening voicemail.

  • On 9 May 2016 a Melbourne grandmother told 9NEWS a similar story after losing $5000 on iTunes gift cards

  • 6 May Police in South Australia issued a warning.

In 2015, WA ScamNet has reported on a woman who lost $7000 to scammers posing as officers from the Australian Taxation Office. The victim was told that there was a pending court case for unpaid taxes, and was urged to "settle" a fake debt as soon as possible to avoid harsh penalties. The victim was instructed to deposit the money into an Australian bank account, which is suspected to have belonged to a money mule.

Similar fake government scams

WA ScamNet has reported on similar incidents of phone scammers posing as Government officials in the past:

Examples

The following are examples of recent phone scams that are similar to the current ATO Scam, courtesy of the ATO website

Example 1

You receive a call from a person saying they are from the ATO. The person may say a letter has been sent to advise you of this phone call, and that the call is to discuss a scheme to reduce your tax for retirement. The person will say they are going to send someone around to discuss your situation and ask questions about your occupation, your assets or whether you have a financial planner or accountant. They may already know your address.

No contact information or reference number is provided.

Key indicators of this scam:

  • Cold calling (unsolicited calls)

  • The caller may be pushy to book an appointment, and advise that there are ATO representatives in your neighbourhood now

  • You are asked questions about your financial situation and other personal information that could be used to steal your identity

  • The caller advises of ‘schemes’ to help reduce your tax and offers to provide financial advice.

Example 2

You are called on either your private home or mobile number by a person claiming to be from the ATO. You are told that due to ’errors’ on your tax return, a warrant has been issued for your arrest and the police will be called unless you attend the local post office and make an immediate payment. A variation of this scam asks you to purchase a ‘Load and Go’ card.

Key indicators of this scam:

  • Cold calling (unsolicited call)

  • You are advised that there is a warrant for your arrest

  • The callers use an aggressive tone

  • You are asked to make a payment without having received any prior advice or correspondence from the ATO

  • You are asked to make a payment without being provided with a personal payment slip.

Example 3  

You are called on either your private home or mobile number by a person claiming to be from the ATO. They say that you have been chosen to receive a business grant from the federal government (amount can vary). You are told you need to phone a specific number straight away to organise the process to collect the grant.

Key indicators of this scam:

  • Cold calling (unsolicited calls).

  • The caller advises that you have been chosen for a business grant.

  • You are asked to phone to organise the collection of the grant. When phoning, you will likely be asked for personal information, including financial details, or requested to pay an amount to have the money released. You may also be asked to provide other personal information that could be used to steal your identity.

  • The caller provides details which may be similar to actual ATO officer details or addresses – however, the street name may be spelt incorrectly, or the wrong postcode is provided with the address.

Example 4  

You are called on either your private home or mobile number by a person claiming to be from the ATO. They say that you are owed a tax refund of around $3,000 (could be any amount) and that you need to make a money transfer to an Indian orphanage or other charity of around $150 in order to receive your refund.

Generally, they provide a NSW phone number to contact the ‘ATO’ once you have completed the transfer. The scammers sometimes quote personal information, such as address and date of birth, during the conversation to show authenticity, and also often have several private contact numbers for you.

Key indicators of this scam:

  • Cold calling (unsolicited calls)

  • The caller advises that you have an unclaimed refund

  • You are asked to pay a sum of money to a third party in order to receive the refund

  • The payment must be made through a money transfer

  • The return phone number is a NSW number rather than a national 1300 number.

Example 5  

You receive a call from a person saying that they are from 'The Tax Office's Australian Government Grants Department'. The person asks to clarify your name and address and says you will receive a cheque for $5,200, hand delivered the next day. In order to get this cheque, you need to call a phone number to confirm eligibility.

Key indicators of this scam:

  • Cold calling (unsolicited calls)

  • The caller advises that you will receive this money as they have 'unclaimed taxes' and/or they 'pay tax frequently'

  • All the call centre operatives refer to themselves as 'Harry'

  • You call the number provided and are asked to go to Australia Post and complete a 'Yellow Form' (presumably an International Money order) and call them back to provide a 10-digit confirmation number from the form

  • You must attach $99 and address the form to 'Australian Government - Veerendra Kumar, Bareilly, India'.