Timely advice from the Australian Taxation Office after a surge in tax scams.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has recently alerted the public to be very wary of anyone claiming to represent the ATO and making unusual or unexpected requests about personal information and or tax refunds.

An increase in scam phone calls, SMS’s and unsolicited emails has resulted in the theft over $800,000 from taxpayers in the month of November alone.

“I’m very pleased the ATO has released this statement.” said Mr Banks, Chairman of Bentleys NSW “It is a timely reminder that we all need to be vigilant when it comes to managing our personal data, as it has come to our attention that some of our clients are victims to this particular crime”.

“Recently one of Bentleys NSW Directors received an automated call to his mobile phone advising that he owed the ATO money, and that if he did not call the number listed within 24 hours a warrant would be issued for his arrest. It just goes to show that everyone is a potential target for scammers.” Mr Banks said.

According to Assistant Commissioner, Ms Kath Anderson “the ATO has received over 37,000 reports of scam attempts in November alone”. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated and their tactics are changing all the time, but phone scams appear to be the most common at the moment.

The ATO has seen an increase in scam phone calls, with sophisticated software used to resemble a legitimate phone number to disguise the caller’s identity.

“The ATO does not project our numbers using caller ID. You can be confident that if there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it isn’t the ATO” Ms Anderson said.

The ATO does contact taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, however there are some tell-tale signs that it is not the ATO making contact. The ATO will not:

  • Use agressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation;
  • Request payment of debt via iTunes, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to banks accounts with a BSB that isn’t either 092-009 or 093-003;
  • Request a fee in order to release a fund owed to you; or
  • Send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link or provide a log-in, personal or financial information, or to download a form or open an attachment.

While technology can help prevent scams the easiest way for a scammer to get through is through human error.

Here are some additional “red flags” that may help save you and or your business from falling victim to a tax scam.

  • Know your tax affairs: you can log on to myGov to check your tax affairs at any time, or you can contact your tax agent or the ATO.
  • Guard your personal or financial information: be careful when clicking on links, downloading files or opening attachments. Only give your personal information to people you trust, and try not to share it on social media.
    – Do you recognise the senders email address – if not be cautious;
    – Was the email sent from someone inside your organisation or from a customer or vendor and appears unusual or out of character;
    – The senders email address is from a suspicious or offshore domain:
    – The email was received at an unusual time e.g. in the middle of the night;
    – You have been copied on an email with others and you don’t know the other people;
    – The subject line is strange and vague and does not match the message content;
    – The email message is a reply to something that you never sent or requested;
  • Know legitimate ways to make payments: scammers may use threatening tactics to trick you into paying false debts in pre-paid gift cards, or by sending money to non-ATO banks accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, visit www.ato.gov.au/howtopay
  • Talk to your accountant, family and friends about scams: if you or someone you know has fallen victim to a tax related scam, call the ATO as soon as you can – the ATO’s dedicated reporting scam line is 1800 008 540.

If you believe you may have be affected by a recent tax scam please contact your Bentleys tax adviser to discuss your next steps.