WARNING: Scammers are targeting people during tax season.
WARNING: Scammers are targeting people during tax season. Samantha Elley

ATO warns of a new scam targeting unexpecting taxpayers

TAXPAYERS are being warned to stay alert when receiving calls from their tax agent, as scammers ramp up their fraud tactics during tax time.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued a warning about a new scammer method targeting taxpayers, which sees the fraudsters initiate a three-way telephone conversation between the scammer, the victim, and another scammer impersonating the victim's tax agent.

"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,” Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said.

Ms Anders said taxpayers expect to be contacted by the ATO during tax time, so scammers take advantage of this and often pretend to be the ATO to initiate unlawful transactions and steal the victims money.

"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,” Ms Anderson said.

"During July and August the ATO received over 7000 scam reports to our dedicated phone line, with close to $190,000 being paid to scammers and over 1600 people handed over their personal or financial information.

"While we see new scams pop up from time to time, the most common scam is still the 'fake tax debt' phone scam, though the 'fake refund' and 'refund for a fee' scams are on the rise.”

According to ATO intelligence reports, there has been an increase in reports of emails and SMS' phishing for personal and financial information, resulting in the ATO taking disruptive action on over 90 fake ATO web pages.

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

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

Anybody wishing to make a complaint about a potential scammer can contact ATO's dedicated scams line is 1800 008 540.



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