A major point of concern over the past year or so for many Australians has been the increased amount of scam calls made from people posing as the Australian Taxation Office. .
According to recently published information, over $800,000 was swindled from unsuspecting victims last November alone. Alarmingly, the methods these scammers have been using have seemed to become more bold and intricate over time, with some even managing to clone ATO phone numbers and gaining access to the names of tax agents, to help add legitimacy to their fraudulent demands.
I myself had a message left on my mobile phone a couple of months ago by a person claiming to be from the ATO, threatening to have me arrested over unpaid tax if I didn’t call back a certain number within 24 hours.
The fact that most of these frauds involve relatively small individual amounts and are usually conducted from overseas, has made it extremely difficult for the scammers to be tracked down and recovery of stolen funds is virtually impossible. So, the best defence in light of all of this is to be prepared with the following facts:
- The ATO will NEVER threaten you – even if you owed millions of dollars to the tax office, they will never threaten or intimidate you with immediate arrest, deportation or physical harm.
- The ATO will NEVER ask you to settle debts with cryptocurrency, gift cards or by other non-cash means – these scammers don’t want to leave an audit trail, so they often demand payment by unconventional means.
- The ATO will NEVER ask you to randomly meet with a ‘representative’ to secure payment – there have been reports of scammers requesting people to meet with someone to hand over cash/gift cards directly.
- Legitimate calls from the ATO usually don’t have a caller ID - so if you see a number displayed during a call, chances are it isn’t from the ATO.
- The tax office only takes direct credits to bank accounts with the BSB numbers 092-009 and 093-003
- The ATO will NEVER send you a text or email requesting personal details or to download a file or attachment – this is usually a method by which scammers try to get ransomware or viruses onto computers and then extort money later to fix the problems the malicious software creates.
The main point to remember is that if you receive a strange call out of the blue and aren’t sure, hang up the phone and give your usual contact at HMH a call. We can usually check immediately if anything is amiss, or confirm any amounts that may be overdue. And spread the word! Hopefully with our combined efforts we can prevent this from happening to anyone you know.
Article by Leon Lee