If you have received a suspicious call, text or email from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) over the past few months then you are not alone. Since March this year, there has been a steady increase in the amount of fake ATO contact being made in attempt to get your personal information and hard-earned cash.
This article will look at some of the common scams that we have seen over the last few months, our top tips to identify a scammer and what to do if you believe you have received a piece of spam correspondence.
Unfortunately, there are many ways in which scammers are impersonating the ATO and other government organisations. Most people know about the classic type of spam calls where the caller requests immediate payment for an overdue tax debt to be made with gift cards or bitcoin and threatens arrest if not immediately actioned. These types of calls, although alarming, have a familiar formula that is easy to identify as a scam. However, scammers are now using other methods and platforms to catch you out.
Last month, scammers were using WhatsApp to put a twist on the phone call scam mentioned above, requesting a copy of their passport, licence or other personal credentials, which may result in their identity being compromised. It is important to remember that the ATO, although having social media accounts, will never request personal information via these platforms.
Other scams over the last few months have included receiving a text or email from a myGov email address requesting information to process your tax refund. Often, a link is provided which will take you to a false refund form requesting your information. Keep in mind that any information requests from the ATO needs to be completed through your myGov account or submitted by your tax agent.
For more information on recent scam alerts from the ATO, you can visit their official web page.
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How Can I Identify An ATO Scam?
If you receive a call, text or email from someone claiming to be from the ATO, it is important to keep in mind that there is a strong process which must be followed for their communication. This includes certain platforms to communicate with you and collect personal information, take payments and overall etiquette. For example, the ATO will also never threaten you with arrest and tell you that you are unable to speak to a trusted advisor, such as a member of our team at Walker Hill Chartered Accountants.
If something seems a bit off with a call or piece of correspondence that you’ve received, then it is best to check in on your current tax situation. You can do this by logging onto your myGov account, calling the ATO back from an independently sourced phone number or by speaking to us. By doing this you will know when lodgements are due, if any lodgements are outstanding and what correspondence should be expected. This will help make it easier to spot items of communication that are not legitimate.
Other handy tips to keep in mind when identifying an ATO spam impersonator are below. Keep in mind that the ATO will never:
- Send a pre-recorded message to your phone
- If you receive a pre-recorded message, ignore it as it will be spam.
- Call from a visible phone number
- Remember to call the ATO back on an independently sourced contact number if a call seems odd.
- Request you to pay into a bank account that isn’t held by the Reserve Bank of Australia
- This can be checked with the BSB details before making a payment.
- Request payment of a fee to authorise a refund
- Never provide payment details over the phone unless you call the ATO directly from an independently sourced number.
- Request personal information, such as bank account details, via text or email
- The ATO may use text or email to contact them, however, if information needs updating. If this is the case, contact us to assist or call the ATO on an independently sourced number.
- Request that you click on a hyperlink directing you to a log in page or form
- If you receive correspondence asking you to log in to a page, do so by searching for the official page, rather then using the hyperlink provided.
What Do I Do If I Have Received An ATO Scam, Text Or Email?
If you have received scam ATO communication, the type of scam and how much information you have provided will determine the best way to proceed.
If you have provided sensitive information to an ATO impersonator scammer, call the ATO to on 1800 008 450 to make an official report. It is also recommended to contact your local police and your bank to also make an official report if you have made a payment or provided financial information.
If you have not provided sensitive information and would like to notify the ATO of the scammer, you can report the scam by completing the online form or by emailing suspicious emails or text message screenshot to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au. If you have not provided sensitive information to the scammer and are a Walker Hill Chartered Accountants client, you can also contact us directly to check your tax account and confirm your current situation.