The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has seen a five-fold increase in scams in the first five months of 2017 and expect that number to increase over tax time.
Scam activity tends to build up around the end of the financial year as people, at times hurriedly and anxiously, compile documentation and prepare tax returns.
Scammers try to take advantage of the movement of all that sensitive financial and personal information in order to commit fraud and identity theft:
- Tax refund scams – scammers contact you claiming you are owed a tax refund, but say they require your personal details and a processing fee in order to give you the funds.
- Tax owed scams – scammers contact you claiming that you have a tax debt and demand you pay them instantly to avoid immediate arrest. They may ask for your credit card details, to pay with a money transfer, pay with gift cards or using a pre-paid debit card.
What to do
- If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the ATO saying that you are due a refund, hang up.
- If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the ATO threatening you with immediate arrest or stating you must pay money to receive a tax refund, hang up.
- If you receive an email or an SMS claiming to be from the ATO asking you for personal or financial information, do not respond and hit delete.
- If you are uncertain as to the authenticity of a call or message from the ATO, hang up, then contact them directly to check on 1800 008 540 or visit the ATO website.
- Talk to your family about scams and, in particular, older relatives who may be more vulnerable to this type of crime. Tell them to ‘ask out loud’ and get a second opinion from a friend or family member if someone contacts them unexpectedly and says they are from the ATO.
And also remember phishing – keep your personal details and your tax file number secret and only share it when required (for example, after you have started a new job or when you are lodging a return).
From time to time the ATO does contact people via phone and email, but the ATO will never:
- Threaten you with immediate arrest
- Ask you to pay money to receive a refund
- Ask you for personal information such as your Tax File Number (TFN) or credit card number via email or SMS.
- Ask you to download files from the internet or open attachments in an unexpected email.
The ATO also provides some information on common types of scams and how to report one if you see it.
Stay Smart Online has more information on how to protect yourself online and what to do if you think you’ve been scammed. The information provided is of a general nature. Everyone’s circumstances are different. If you require specific advice feel free to contact the friendly team at OBT in Gatton on 5462 2277.