The tax office has issued a high alert after more than $800,000 was reportedly lost in the month of November alone due to a spike in the number scam phone calls doing the rounds.
It comes just over a week after the ACCC issued an urgent warning to businesses over mounting losses to invoice scams.
ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said that the ATO has received more than 37,000 reports of scam attempts in November alone, with scammers using software that resembles a legitimate phone number to disguise the caller’s true identity.
“The ATO does not project our numbers using caller ID. You can be confident that if there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it isn’t the ATO,” Ms Anderson said.
“Taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message, email or letter about a tax refund or debt, especially if you weren’t expecting it.”
While the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that it could be a scammer on the other end.
According to Ms Anderson, the ATO will not use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten people with arrest, jail or deportation; request payment of a debt via iTunes, prepaid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a bank account with a BSB that isn’t either 092-009 or 093-003; request a fee in order to release a refund owed to the recipient; or send an email or SMS asking the recipient to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment.
“If you suspect that you have been contacted by a scammer, you should contact our call centre. It’s OK to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or to report a scam,” Ms Anderson said.
“While phone scams are the most common at the moment, scammers are constantly changing tactics. Taxpayers should still beware of unsolicited emails and SMS, with more than 6,000 people handing over their personal or financial information to scammers since July this year.
“Taxpayers play an important role in stopping scammer activity by reporting them to our scam line. Your reports help us to get an accurate picture of what is happening with the current scams, which ultimately helps protect the Australian community.”
Tax scams have been an ongoing issue for the community this year, with the tax office earlier advising of a new scam involving scammers impersonating a registered tax agent.
During tax time this year, a high alert was issued following a scam involving a fake myGov email proposing taxpayers a tax refund, but instead is designed to steal personal and financial information.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.