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How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Tax Time Fraud

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Tax Time Fraud

The last thing anyone wants at this time of year is a call from the ATO. However, what if you get a call, email or text from the ATO and they are telling you that you owe them or maybe even that you are entitled to a refund, how can you know it is genuine?

Thankfully most people these days are educated enough to spot most basic scams before they can get any details. If you receive an email saying you are to inherit millions from a long lost relative but they need your account details to send you the money, most people delete the email straight away.

However, while we have become more educated about scammers as a population, this has caused the scammers to become more intelligent with their scams. An incredibly common scam that is popular this time of the year is pretending to be the ATO.


What does an ATO scam look like?

The current scams that the ATO are aware of include both telephone and email. Some people will get a phone call with a caller ID that is a genuine ATO phone number that the scammers can imitate to fool victims. The caller will then go on to aggressively claim that you have an outstanding debt and have ignored previous mail sent and the matter is going to court.

People will often pay because they feel bullied and for fear of legal proceedings if they fail to do so. Despite this approach never being something the ATO would adopt even if you did have outstanding tax debts.

Another scam to be careful of is an email that says you are entitled to a refund or that it is your notice of assessment. In the email, there is an attachment that contains a malware virus that can hold your computer to ransom.

Keep up to date with current known ATO scams here.

How do you tell an ATO scam from a real call?

If the contact you have received does any of the following things, it should be a red flag that it is likely a scam and not the ATO. The ATO will never do any of the following things.

  • They threaten you with immediate arrest
  • Ask you to pay money to receive a refund or payment from them
  • Ask you to pay a debt via iTunes vouchers, or pre-paid credit card or store gift cards
  • Ask you to provide personal information, such as your tax file number (TFN) or credit card number, via email or SMS
  • Ask you to pay money into a personal bank account
  • Direct you to download files from the internet or open attachments in unsolicited emails.

They said they are the ATO but how can I be sure?

If you have gotten a call, email or text from someone claiming to be the ATO and you are not sure about the legitimacy of the call, assume it is fake until you know otherwise.  There are some ways you can check if the contact you have received is authentic.

  • Call the ATO on 1800 008 540

If you believe the contact you have received is actually a scam, immediately hang up the phone and report it to the ATO by calling 1800 008 540. If it was via email forward it to without changing or adding additional information. Then delete it from your inbox and sent files.

By taking a few simple steps to educate yourself on current tax time scams, you can hopefully prevent yourself becoming one of the many affected by scammers every year.