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Tax scams

06/07/2023

An overview of tax scams and how to recognise them.

Tax scams are where someone impersonates a tax office representative to try and trick you into paying money or giving up your personal information.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is encouraging Aussies to be aware around this time of year where scammers may try and contact you via phone, SMS, email or apps.

Here’s what some tax scams look like and how to protect yourself.

An example of a scam text message claiming to be from myGov.

Tax scams by phone

The most common approach for scammers is by phone with one of these angles:

  • Demanding you pay tax debts you may not know about
  • Threatening you with jail or arrest if you don’t pay up immediately
  • Offering you a tax refund in exchange for a fee
  • Asking for personal information, such as your bank login or credit card details.

A scammer may also be a real person, but often it’s a robot-voice asking you to call back a non-ATO number. Callers can also sound rude, aggressive or threatening. If you get a suspect phone call, don’t engage. Hang up and block the number.

Tax scams on social media

There’s been a recent rise in scammers creating fake social media accounts for the ATO on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and other platforms.

If you’re approached by a fake account you might be asked to interact with the ATO via direct message so they can ‘help you with your enquiry’. They might also ask you for payments in unusual ways – such as by cryptocurrency or purchase of gift or iTunes cards. 

Check the accounts and activity (if there are only a few posts on the account it’s likely to be a scammer) and look for the verification tick next to the username (if the platform offers this).

You should also never hand over any personal information on social media, even if you think the account is legitimate.

Tax scams via email or SMS

The ATO will sometimes use email and SMS to make contact, but usually instruct you to use your myGov account.

If you’re approached by a scammer via email or SMS, look out for these red flags:

  • A different domain on the email – like ‘ato.com.au’ rather than the correct ‘ato.gov.au’
  • Demand for payment is immediate, often using the unusual methods mentioned above
  • You might be asked to pay into accounts with BSB numbers that don't belong to the ATO
  • You might be told you have a tax refund (but this is not how the ATO would advise you)
  • You might be asked for financial or personal information or your tax file number.

For any emails or text messages regarding your taxes that sound threatening or that ask you to click on a link:

  • Don’t respond to the email
  • Don’t open any attachments or click on links provided
  • Block the sender and delete the email or message.

 

Signs that this email is a scam - grammatical errors, creating a sense of urgency and asking you to click a link .

Worried you’ve been scammed?

If you are not sure whether a call or email you have received is a scam attempt, you can contact the ATO find out. If you have been scammed, here’s what to do:

  • Report it to Scamwatch
  • Call the police if you’ve made payments to the scammer
  • Contact your bank if you’ve provided financial information.

How you can protect your information

Being aware and proactive in protecting your information is essential:

  • Keep an eye on the latest scam alerts
  • Protect your bank accounts by regularly changing your online banking password
  • Only use myGov to monitor your tax account
  • Maintain regular contact with your tax agent if you have one
  • Avoid sharing personal information with anyone you don’t know.

To protect others from scams, it’s important you share your experiences, report any scam attempts and warn relatives or friends about suspicious emails or calls going around.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication. Any links to third party websites are for your information only.

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