Recent reports are estimating that scammers are fleecing Australians out of $800,000 a month through an elaborate fake Australian Tax Office scam. More believable than an email from a Nigerian Prince, this scam is frightening for victims as thieves use software that resembles a legitimate phone number before making assertions of outstanding taxation payments and threatening people with jail if they don’t respond.
The ATO has received 37,000 reports of scam attempts in November, but these are only the reported attempts, it is suspected that the number is much higher.
A number of our clients have been contacted via a phone call, SMS, email or letter about a refund or debt. In one case, one of our clients received an aggressive voicemail on her home phone. Distressed, she contacted Michael Dundas, Partner in our Private Business and Family Advisory team. Michael noted, “When I visited her and listened to the message, it was very aggressive, and I can understand why she was distressed. Fortunately she called us first and we were able to verify that there were no outstanding obligations”.
Pitcher Partners position on this is simple. If you ever receive direct contact from someone purporting to be the ATO or to know of your financial affairs, call us, not them. We can help you work through whether the claim is real or otherwise, and guide you in what actions you should then take.
Nevertheless, some quick tips for identifying an ATO scammer include:
- If there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it is not the ATO
- Be wary of any phone call, text message, email or letters about a tax refund or debt – especially if you weren’t expecting it
- The ATO never requests payments of debts via iTunes, prepaid visa or cryptocurrency
- The ATO will never request a fee to release a refund
- The ATO only takes direct credits to bank accounts with BSB numbers 092-009 and 093-003 (Reserve Bank of Australia)
- The ATO does not send people email or text messages asking them to click on a link to provide personal details or to download a file or attachment
- The ATO will not ask you to stay on the phone with you while you go to the bank, post office, or shops to make a payment.
- The ATO will not act in an abusive or offensive manner or threaten you with immediate arrest
Reports show that people of any age can be a target for scammers, so we encourage you to have conversations with your family – young and old – about remaining vigilant.
If you are in doubt about an interaction with someone claiming to be from the ATO, or you think you have fallen victim to an ATO impersonation scam, please don’t hesitate to contact us.