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Tax Time Phone Scams

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don't be scammed at tax time

As the end of the financial year looms nearer, more and more people are being targeted by tax scams

The Tax Office has warned about an increased number of scammers out in force at this time of year with many Aussies falling victim. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is warning people to stop and think before giving their personal details, or even their money, to anyone.

The ATO has seen an increased number of reports of scammers contacting members of the public pretending to be from the ATO and claiming that there are outstanding tax debts, threatening people with arrest if the debt is not paid immediately.  Such calls have been reported since April this year with scam attempts likely to increase toward June and July.

Scammers use technology to make their calls look like they are originating from a legitimate ATO phone number. By imitating ATO phone numbers and projecting them onto caller ID, the scammers can trick you into thinking its a call from the ATO. The technique is called 'spoofing' and is employed to make the calls seem more valid when they call people a second time. According to the ATO the most frequent numbers appearing are 6216 1111 and 1800 467 033, however numbers for individual ATO staff members have also been used in this way.

Even if you do have money owing to the ATO don’t assume the call is legitimate. Be mindful of the fact that a legitimate ATO employee will never do any of the following:

  • threaten to have you arrested or use any kind of threatening tactics to get you to pay
  • demand you pay your debt on the spot, particularly through unconventional means such pre-paid credit cards, gift cards or even bit-coin.
  • tell you that you can’t speak with your tax agent or a trusted financial advisor first before having to pay the alleged amount

The ATO recommends people be very cautious about the personal information they share.  Keep devices secure by changing passwords regularly and keep anti-virus software up to date.  Never call a scammer back on the number they provide.

If you are in any doubt about an ATO call, simply hang up and phone the ATO directly on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or to report a scam. 

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.