Tax time is like Christmas for scammers. They come out of the woodwork in droves, trying to con people into paying money or handing out personal information.
Scammers have many tricks up their sleeves, from threatening people with jail to promising tax refunds if you complete a form.
Using emails and phone calls they demand direct deposits into third-party bank accounts, payment via iTunes cards or with a pre-paid Visa gift card.
And scammers are becoming more convincing because they may:
- Send a code to your mobile phone to confirm their transaction.
- Use an Australian Taxation Office logo in emails
- Provide a phone number for you to call them on
But, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is urging all Australians to remain vigilant, keep their personal information secure and report any suspicious activity immediately.
“In 2017, the ATO received more than 80,000 reports of scams, with taxpayers reporting almost $2.4 million lost to scammers claiming to be from the ATO,” assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said.
“More than $900,000 worth of iTunes gift cards were reportedly paid to scammers – by almost one third of all victims. We are hoping that the new warnings that Apple is including on their gift cards will help people realise the ATO doesn’t accept payment in iTunes cards.
“Even more concerning at the moment is that more than half of all losses are a result of scammers convincing taxpayers to make deposits or transfers directly into third-party bank accounts. Roughly $1.2 million was lost in this way in 2017.”
Also of concern is taxpayers being tricked into sharing personal information such as their Tax File Number, bank account numbers or date of birth with scammers.
“We cannot stress this enough – your personal information must be treated like your bank PIN. If someone knew your PIN, they would have access to your hard-earned income, and it’s the same with your personal information and tax return,” Ms Anderson said.
The best defence against scammers is to keep your information safe and know what to do if you are targeted.
“If you are contacted by anyone purporting to be from the ATO and you have doubts about whether it is legitimate, immediately hang up and get in touch with the ATO to verify the call,” Ms Anderson said.
All reports of identity theft are taken seriously, and the ATO works closely with taxpayers who suspect their identities have been stolen, misused or compromised.
- If you think your Tax File Number has been compromised, call Client Identity Support on 1800 467 033 or visit ato.gov.au/identitytheft.