As many of you may have over heard about the recent scams that are going around paying a fake tax debt and receiving an unexpected tax refund from Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Integrated Accountants is taking part, along with ATO and other organisations, to raise awareness for everyone from becoming a victim of such scams.
Groups of highly capable scammers has set up a huge platform to scam consumers and small businesses to take steps where these groups can get access to taxpayers identity and use it to get money out. The scam has already reached up to millions of dollars. The aggressive scammer’s forces people to pay a fake tax debt over the phone by threatening arrest if they don’t comply. Assistant Commissioner Thomas Ryan said that the ATO makes thousands of outbound calls to taxpayers a week, but would never contact taxpayers about a debt in this threatening manner and urges people to protect their personal details.
From impersonating as an ATO representative, to creating official looking emails and email addresses, and professional-looking websites that mirror the ATO site. They even create web portals that appear to be hosted on the ATO site, which are designed to trick you into providing your personal details. Beware, scammers may even tell you some personal information about you to trick you into thinking they are genuine. Nowadays, it is easy for scammers to get hold of your personal information from social media and other networking forums. So, be careful about what you share publicly. Your personal details, including your Tax File Number, myGov, credit card or bank details are valuable and should never be shared to any stranger or on social media. It may cause identity theft and steal your money.
Here are some common scams to be aware of:
Tax refund scams – typically involve the scammer telling you that you have overpaid your tax and are now entitled to a tax refund. To receive the refund scammers will first ask you to pay an administration or transfer fee via money transfer. They might also ask for your bank account details or, credit or debit card details, claiming that this is for the purpose of transferring the money to you. Note that transferring money via money transfer or wire transfer is highly impossible to recover.
Tax owed scams – scammers will say that you have underpaid or have a tax debt and are now required to repay the tax debt immediately. They may request your credit card details or ask you to pay the outstanding amount via a money transfer or, they may also ask you to purchase a pre-paid debit card from your local post office, and then send them the card details so that they can access the money.
Phishing emails – scammers will often try to steal your identity or money by sending you an email that pretends to be from a trusted entity such as the ATO. The scammer will try to get hold of your personal details by trying to get you to fill in a form, or click on a link that will allow them to infect your computer with viruses and malware.
You should never open any attachments or click on any links in, or reply to, suspicious emails. Doing so may take you to a fake website or contain malicious virus. If you have any doubts you can give a call to ATO on 13 28 61 or forward the email to “ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au”.
Phone Call – You receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions or the Australian Taxation Office. The person will claim that there is an arrest warrant issued as you have a tax debt. They may also spin a range of stories about why an arrest warrant has been issued, including that you have failed to pay taxes. The scammer will ask you to telephone a number that appears to be Australian but is likely to be a VOIP number. One of the numbers reported is 02 6100 3027.
You might receive a phone call claiming to be from ATO and are saying that you are entitled to a refund and asking you to confirm, update or disclose confidential details like your tax file number, JUST HANG UP. Verify the caller by contacting the ATO on their official contact number 13 28 61. Alternatively, you can contact us and we will verify the call for you with the correct information.
“We would never cold call you about a debt, we would never threaten jail or arrest, and our staff certainly wouldn’t behave in an aggressive manner,” ATO second commissioner Geoff Leeper said on Monday. Mr Leeper also said scammers pretending to be from the ATO were more common at tax time, and people should be vigilant to protect their personal information.
Identity Confirmation – You may also be asked to provide your bank account details or other personal information so that they can confirm your identity check. If you provide your bank account details or other personal information, the scammer may use it to commit identity theft or to steal your money.
If you have any doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a government department, contact the body directly. Don’t rely on numbers, email addresses or websites provided by the caller – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Alternatively, we can help you with the correct number, websites or email addresses.
ATO advises that you should never put your tax file number (TFN) on your resume; only give it to your employer after you have started your job. ATO also advises that if you use a tax agent for your taxation matters, make sure they are registered by checking at www.tpb.gov.au/onlineregister.
If you receive a call claiming to represent the ATO and are asking about your personal information over the phone, take the caller’s name, end the call and then call ATO’s official contact number 13 28 61, otherwise if you are not comfortable to speak to ATO you can always contact our office on 1300 468 222 (regardless you are our client or not).
You should also spread the word to your friends and family to protect them. Be very careful, if you receive any such communication, do not respond to it. If in doubt, look up the government departments or concerned organisation yourself using the communication details provided on the respective website. Alternatively, you can contact us on 1300 468 222 “Integrated Accountants” if you are uncomfortable to contact the professional or government bodies, regardless of you are our clients or not. You can also email us on ‘email@example.com’ or ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ if you require any further information regarding tax scams. We are always here to help the public as helping and protecting you from these kinds of issues is our priority.