The Australian Taxation Office has warned of a new scam impersonating the Tax Office and other government agencies, such as Services Australia and the Department of Legal Services, through automated calls aimed to extort personal details from taxpayers ahead of tax time.
These automated calls claim the taxpayer’s tax file number (TFN) has been suspended and that there is a legal case against their name, instructing people to contact the caller by pressing “1” and threatening court or arrest if they refuse to follow instructions.
“If the person presses ‘1’ and makes contact with the scammer, they are typically told that their TFN had been suspended due to money laundering or other suspicious or fraudulent activity and that there are several allegations against them,” the ATO has explained.
Next, callers are asked to provide the last four digits of their TFN, address, date of birth, name of their bank account, and the approximate amount of money in the account/s.
“Sometimes the scammer will ‘transfer’ the victim to the ‘police’ where they’re told a case has been filed against them and they will be arrested unless they pay,” the ATO said.
“Sometimes they advise the victim will receive mail to their home or that their bank accounts will be closed.”
Urging taxpayers to hang up immediately and ensure they do not provide any personal information to scammers, the ATO reassured that it would never send unsolicited pre-recorded messages or threaten with immediate arrest.
“If you aren’t sure whether an ATO call is legitimate, hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check,” the ATO advised.
“Scammers are constantly developing new ways to steal from the community and will often try to take advantage of people when they are most vulnerable.
“You can help us stop scammers in their tracks by warning your friends and family to stay alert.”
Just last month, the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher announced that the ATO has teamed up with Aussie telcos and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on a three-month trial of technology to block scam calls appearing to originate from legitimate ATO phone numbers.
In 2019, the ATO received over 107,000 reports of impersonation scams from the community.