A Queensland man has been sentenced to five years’ jail after he was found to have conducted fake job interviews as part of an “elaborate online job scam” to defraud the ATO.
The ATO said in a statement that Micah Robby Elstak had faced a total of 106 charges relating to the tax fraud, which took place between August 2015 and July 2016.
According to the Tax Office, Mr Elstak used two aliases — Robert Ketting-Oliver and Ryan McCarthy — to steal the identities of 52 taxpayers.
It said that he conducted fake job interviews by phone through various companies, and then emailed applicants to say they had been successful, requesting scanned copies of their driver’s licence, bank account details and tax file number, as well as their shirt size.
“Mr Elstak used this information to fraudulently create myGov accounts, or if they already had an account, he used the information to take over their account and change the details as required,” the ATO said.
“He would then link the myGov accounts to ATO online services where he would lodge false income tax returns in their names. The resulting refunds were credited to one of 63 bank accounts in his control.”
The ATO said that “many” of the people affected reported the scam after realising that the job they had applied for didn’t actually exist.
In total, $565,895 in refunds from 62 fake tax returns were claimed under the scam. Of this, $378,099 was stopped before it reached Mr Elstak’s bank accounts by internal bank anti-fraud measures in conjunction with the ATO and Queensland Police.
ATO assistant commissioner Ian Read welcomed the Brisbane District Court’s decision earlier this month to impose a five-year jail term.
“People who try to cheat the tax system will get caught and we will take firm action, including penalties and criminal prosecution,” he said.
Mr Read urged all Australian taxpayers to be vigilant about protecting their personal information.
“Never give out your personal identifying information unless you are certain of who you are speaking to. If your TFN or other personal information has been stolen, disclosed to or used by an unauthorised person, call our Client Identity Support Centre on 1800 467 033,” he said.
“Remember, your employer will only need details like your TFN and bank account through a TFN declaration form once you commence your employment.
“To protect taxpayers’ information, we are also encouraging myGov users linked to the ATO to update their myGov sign-in options and opt to receive a security code by SMS. It’s a quick and secure way to sign in to access ATO online services.”
He also urged anyone with suspicions about tax fraud to come forward and report it.
This latest judgment comes just weeks after a Victorian man was sentenced to almost seven years in jail, after claiming almost $500,000 in fake GST refunds on behalf of a business by posing as an accountant.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.