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Over 40,000 ATO impersonation scams so far in 2019

Over 40,000 ATO impersonation scams so far in 2019

The ATO has received 40,225 reports of impersonation scams so far in 2019, with just over $1 million in losses.

  • Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
  • April 08, 2019
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The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has warned about the continuation of unprecedented numbers of pre-recorded phone calls experienced last year that impersonate legitimate Tax Office phone numbers.

The ATO said that scammers have adopted ‘robocall’ technology to target taxpayers across the country.

"Scammers are sending pre-recorded messages in record numbers and are manipulating caller identification so that your phone displays a legitimate ATO phone number despite coming from an overseas scammer," assistant commissioner Gavin Siebert said.

The ATO explained that thousands of Australians are missing a call from a scammer, returning the call based on the number on caller ID and speaking to legitimate members of the ATO.

"Our calls do not show a number on caller ID nor do we use pre-recorded messages. If the scammers do make contact, they will request payment of a tax debt – usually through unusual methods like bitcoin, gift cards and vouchers," Mr Siebert said. 

"Legitimate ways to pay your tax debt are listed on our website. The scammers will threaten you with immediate arrest, attempt to keep you on the line until payment is made and may become rude or aggressive."

The technique of displaying misleading phone numbers is known as “spoofing” and is commonly used by scammers in an attempt to make their interactions with taxpayers appear legitimate.

"Taxpayers should be wary of any unexpected phone call, text message or email claiming to be from the Tax Office," Mr Siebert added. 

"While we may contact you in these ways, if it doesn’t seem right, independently find our phone number and check if the contact was legitimate. If you receive a pre-recorded message claiming to be from us, either hang up or simply delete the voicemail."

The ATO cautioned that while it regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that it isn’t the ATO. 

The ATO will never send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link directing you to a login page; use aggressive or rude behaviour; request payment of a debt via iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account; or request a fee in order to release a refund owed to you.

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