Australians have already tried to pay the ATO more than $50,000 in bitcoin

Posted: 15 March 2018 5:32 pm

That's the one where someone wants you to pay tax debt in bitcoin. The ATO doesn't want your bitcoin.

The scam goes like this. Someone contacts you and claims to be from the Australian Tax Office (ATO). They say that you've got a massive tax debt of some kind and that if you don't pay it off you'll be arrested. Fortunately, you can pay it with bitcoin. You just need to hop on down to a nearby bitcoin ATM, send them some bitcoin and you're in the clear.

This is very obviously a scam because everyone knows the tax office only accepts iTunes gift cards.*

*Just to be absolutely clear, that's a joke. Do not try to pay the ATO with gift cards.

So far, the ATO has already seen Australians pay more than $50,000 worth of bitcoin to scammers claiming fake ATO tax debts.

How to avoid falling victim to this scam

With a bit of quick thinking, you can avoid falling victim to this scam. The trick is to not give the scammers money, instead of giving the scammers money.

"If you have received an unexpected email or threatening phone call that claims to be from the ATO and demands payment via Bitcoin or cryptocurrency, iTunes cards, or pre-paid Visa gift cards, don’t make the payment," the ATO advises.

Other than that, you can take steps to reduce the odds of receiving a call in the first place by making sure details like your tax file number, birth certificate and similar are kept safe. Scammers will often get hold of personal information on social media, or just buy it on the thriving personal information black market, and use it to give a bit of weight to their call and make it sound more convincing.

If you want to check the legitimacy of an ATO call or email, believe you've been the victim of a tax scam, or have previously tried to give bitcoin to the ATO and want your losses added to that awesome $50,000 running tally, you can contact the ATO on 1800 008 540.

However, even though the ATO doesn't want you to pay your tax in bitcoin, they still want you to pay tax on bitcoin.

Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VEN, XLM, SALT, BTC, NANO

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