Fri, 7 Sep, 2018Over60

New ATO phone scam swindling hundreds of thousands from Aussie taxpayers

New ATO phone scam swindling hundreds of thousands from Aussie taxpayers

It seems there’s new, more sophisticated phone scams cropping up all the time, and this latest one is scarily genuine-sounding.

The Australian Taxation Office has issued a warning about a new scam whereby criminals impersonate the ATO. The hoax has raked in almost $190,000 from victims in just two months.

The scam involves a three-way phone call where the fraudster rings a victim pretending to be from the tax office claiming that a large bill needs to be paid immediately.

When the victim challenges the claim or is sceptical, the scammer calls an “associate” to prove authenticity. That person then pretends to be the victim's tax agent and confirms a bill needs to be paid.

In some instances, the scammers will become aggressive and threaten legal or police action if the bill is not paid.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said scammers are taking advantage of the time of year.

"One recent example had a taxpayer unfortunately thinking the telephone conversation was legitimate, and ended up withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash and depositing it into a Bitcoin ATM, fearing the police had a warrant out for his arrest," said Anderson.

"We are at the half-way point of tax time, and we’ve seen an increase in reports in recent months.

"In September we typically see these high volumes continue, so we are warning the community to be on the lookout for things that don’t look or feel quite right."

Anderson said scammers weren’t just looking to get money from people but also a taxpayer's personal data.

“Scammers aren’t just looking at getting a quick fix through an upfront payment. They are increasingly looking to get your personal information, and once they gain this data they can sell it or use it to impersonate you for their own financial gain," warned Anderson.

"One taxpayer received an email which appeared to be from the ATO. The email requested her to click a link to download her BAS for lodgement.

“Clicking the link ran malicious software which gave the scammer access to all data on her computer.

"She later found that her credit rating had been severely impacted as the scammers racked up large unpaid debts in her and her business’ name."

Anderson reminds people that while the ATO does use emails, phone calls and SMS messages to contact taxpayers, it will never use aggressive or rude behaviour or threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation.

"Australians are generally pretty good at identifying scams but there has been a distinct increase in the level of scam sophistication," said Anderson.

"The cloned web addresses linked to scam emails are sometimes difficult to distinguish from and the compromise of your personal information via this method may remain undetected with impacts only realised many months later."