The New Breed of ATO Scammers
Have you or someone you know received a scary voice mail demanding immediate payment of a tax debt or risk a warrant being issued for immediate arrest? According to the Australian taxation Office (ATO) scammers have fleeced more than $1 million dollars from Australians this year alone using “robocall” technology to impersonate ATO officers.
ATO assistant commissioner Gavin Sierbert has issued an urgent warning highlighting the level of sophistication the scammers use. “Scammers are sending pre-recorded messages in record numbers and are manipulating caller identification so that your phone displays a legitimate ATO phone number despite coming from an overseas scammer”. This particular technique is called caller ID spoofing or Robocall. Targets of this scam will receive a call demanding payment of a debt. If they miss the call, because the scammer has hacked a legitimate ATO number, when they call back it goes through to an ATO officer, which almost legitimises the scammer.
What is ID spoofing?
- Scammers use “robocall” technology to send pre-recorded messages. These messages demand payment for an existing tax debt and threaten immediate arrest.
- Despite calling from overseas, the scammers are able to manipulate the caller identification number to appear to be a legitimate ATO number.
- If you answer the phone call the scammers will request payment of a tax debt. They will request payment via methods such as bitcoin, gift cards and vouchers.
- The scammers will use tactics such as intimidation, aggression and threats of immediate arrest.
The ATO has received 40,225 reports of scams impersonating ATO officers in 2019, a significant increase from the same time in 2018. The scammers are using ID spoofing as a means to make their calls appear legitimate. For this reason it is important that people are able to spot a scammer.
How to spot an ATO scammer
- Legitimate ATO calls do not show caller ID ( they come from a private number)
- Legitimate ATO calls do not use pre-recorded messages
- The ATO does not request payment through unusual methods like bitcoins and vouchers or direct payment in personal accounts. Payment methods are listed on their website and you should always confirm the payment details are correct before paying any amount.
- The ATO will not send you an email or SMS asking you to click on any link. If you need to contact the ATO, independently search for their number to check if the contact is legitimate.
- The ATO will never harass or threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation.
- They will never request a fee for release of debt owed by you.
How to protect yourself from ATO scammers
- Know your tax affairs. Contact you tax agent or login to MyGov.
- Be identity theft savvy. Do not click on suspicious or unsolicited links. Do not share personal information on social media.
- If you are unsure about a call, text or email, you can verify the authenticity by calling 1800 008 540
- Only pay by legitimate methods. To check that a payment method is genuine, visit www.ato.gov.au/howtopay.
- Talk to your family and friends and ask for their opinion or let them know of your experience so you can help them too.
What to do if you have received a call or have been scammed
- call 1800 008 540 to report to the ATO if you or someone you know has been scammed or has provided personal identifying information to a scammer.
- If you have received a phone call but have not been scammed, fill in the online reporting form at https://www.ato.gov.au/reportascam/#reportscam
- If you have received an email or text message from scammers claiming to be ATO officers, forward the email or take a screenshot of the text and email ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au
- Delete the email or text.
- In the event of you having made a payment to a scammer, you will need to make a report to your local police.
- If you have given your credit card details to a scammer, you will need to contact your financial institution.
For more information
https://www.cyber.gov.au/report to report Cybercrime.
https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/ for consumer fraud information and to report other scams.
https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Online-services/Identity-security/Scam-alerts/ to show a list of the latest ATO scam alerts.
We are always here to help. Please feel free to contact us and ask for help.