Prior to Christmas, the Tax Office had warned that reported losses from a phone scam impersonating it had spiked in November to more than $800,000.
Since that warning was issued, ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foat said a new tactic had emerged, where fraudsters resorted to text messages instead of phone calls.
“We are seeing the emergence of a new tactic, where scammers are using an ATO number to send fraudulent SMS messages to taxpayers, asking them to click on a link and hand over their personal details in order to obtain a refund,” she said.
A common tactic of “spoofing” was recorded last year, the ATO said, where scammers manipulate the caller ID to make it appear to be from a reputable or official source.
Ms Foat said that same tactic can, and increasingly is, being used by fraudsters to imitate SMS origins and email domains to trick people into handing over money as well as personal information.
“This scam is not just targeting your money, but is after your personal information in an attempt to steal your identity,” she said.
“Taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message or email asking you to provide login, personal or financial information, especially if you weren’t expecting it.”
The ATO has sought to clarify how to spot a bogus means of communication from a legitimate contact from its officers.
“While the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that it isn’t the ATO,” it said.
“The ATO will not:
• send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment;
• use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation;
• request payment of a debt via iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account; or
• request a fee in order to release a refund owed to you.”
Ms Foat said that anyone uncertain about the authenticity of a communication purporting to be from the ATO should err on the side of caution.
“If you are unsure about a call, text message or email that you have received, don’t reply. It’s OK to slow down and phone us on 1800-008-540 to check if the contact was legitimate or to report a scam,” she said.
A separate warning about invoice scams was issued to businesses by the ACCC in late November, after one business lost more than $300,000. It noted that mid-sized companies had been a key target of such scams.
The alerts have been issued in a bid to inform Australian business taxpayers about the type and prevalence of scams as well as advise on what to look out for, in a bid to minimise the losses being incurred.