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ATO reveals top scam trends ahead of EOFY

The tax office has revealed the top scam trends that have emerged in the lead-up to the end of the financial year to help taxpayers and businesses stay protected in tax time.

17 June 2022 

In the last 12 months, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has identified and taken action against 595 websites impersonating ATO online services. These fake sites are designed to steal passwords, along with personal and business information.

“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of SMS and email scams leading to fake myGov sign-in pages – we’ve had more than 360 of these scams reported since April 2022,” ATO Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh said. 

“However, we see many different types of tax and super scams happening year-round, not just in the lead up to tax time.”

Mr Loh said scammers were always looking for new ways to convince unsuspecting taxpayers into divulging personal information, such as bank details, usernames and passwords.

In the last three years, the ATO saw younger Australians falling victim to the most tax scams

In 2021, people aged 25 to 34 reported the most amount of money lost to tax scams, closely followed by those aged 18 to 24. In contrast, those aged 55 and above were among those who reported the least financial losses to the ATO.

“We want Gen Z and Millennials to know they need to watch out too, as they are just as susceptible to falling for scams, especially those that involve fake tax debts or threats about alleged fraud,” Mr Loh said.

“If you get a phone call saying it’s from the ATO and it doesn’t sound right, hang up. Check in with someone you trust, like a friend or family member. Even better, go to the ATO’s website where we have a listing of all the current ATO scams or call us on our dedicated scam hotline 1800 008 540.”

Mr Loh said the ATO has also found email and SMS scams were not always full of typos, bad grammar, and promises of riches from foreign royalty. 

“We are seeing many more sophisticated scam messages using official language and fraudulent websites that mimic online services,” Mr Loh said.

Protect your business at tax time

Hear from the ATO about the most common tax time attacks and top measures to protect your business.

“We’ve seen some very convincing email and SMS scams that would trick even the most cautious people.

“The ATO does send emails and SMS to clients to share general information or reminders, or to ask people to check their myGov inbox or get in touch with us.”

However, there are some telltale signs to look out for if an email or SMS says it’s from the ATO. 

The ATO said it will never send an unsolicited message requesting personal information via a return email or SMS, send an email or SMS with a link to log in to their online services, or ask to pay a fee in order to receive a refund.

The ATO recently issued a scam alert for an ATO impersonation scam that has been circulating in June.

“We're seeing an increase in email phishing scams claiming to be from the ATO,” the tax office warned.

“These scams tell people their '2022 tax lodgment' has been received. The email asks them to open an attachment to sign a document and complete their 'to do list details'.

“Opening the attachment takes you to a fake Microsoft login page designed to steal your login details. Entering your password could give the scammer access to your Microsoft account, allowing them to reset your passwords for other accounts like banking and online shopping."

Whilst individuals and businesses focus on tax when it’s time to lodge, scammers are always constantly looking for ways to steal your personal details and financial information, according to Mr Loh.

“We see different types of tax and super scams happening year-round," he said.

“It’s important to always stay vigilant to potential scams, and to keep your personal and financial details safe.”

Some common scams that the ATO saw year-round involve scammers phoning people about a fake tax debt, and threatening that they’ll be arrested if they don’t pay it straight away

There were also incidents where scammers send texts to people saying that they’re suspected of being involved in cryptocurrency tax evasion and sending emails impersonating the ATO and asking for people to update their financial information so their tax refund can be processed.

"Remember to protect personal information like it’s your credit card or tax file number and never share your usernames or passwords with anyone, not even your registered tax agent,” Mr Loh said.

"Be careful about clicking on links, even if a message seems to come from a legitimate source and If you are ever unsure whether it’s really the ATO, do not engage or reply. Instead, phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 or a number sourced from our website to check if it’s legitimate. If you use a registered tax agent, they can help you verify it’s the ATO.”

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