Be cautious of fake phone calls from the ATO

Alison Banney 9 October 2017 NEWS

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The ATO is urging Australian consumers to be wary of any communications they receive regarding a tax debt.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued a warning to Australian consumes to be extra vigilant of any unsolicited phone calls or emails they may receive regarding an overdue tax debt. There has been an increase in these scams throughout September 2017, which demand consumers pay their debt immediately.

Fake phone calls

The ATO says these scammers may call consumers via a robotic voice recording, and often say they're from the ATO Tax Crime and Investigation Unit. They are using a string of fake names, the most common being: Alexander Lee, Michael Anderson, Michael Harris, James Anderson, Matthew Clark, Mark Brown, Mark Davis or Mark Konza.

The ATO says these fake calls can be intimidating, with the scammer often telling consumers they're committing tax fraud and threatening immediate arrest or court if they do not pay their debt straight away. This, of course, is something they have no power to action, so they will often get angry when asked for further details about the apparent debt.

Perhaps the most obvious way to spot a scammer is if they ask you to pay using non-mainstream payment methods, such as iTunes, gift cards or pre-paid Visa cards. No legitimate government agency will ever request you pay via these methods. If you receive a phone call you believe to be a scam, hang up and phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 to report or check if it was legitimate.

Fake emails

As many Australians will be expecting their tax refund through October, the ATO is also urging Australians to be cautious of any emails they may receive asking them to claim their tax refund online. There was a spike in these email scams through September 2017.

An example of the fake email is below:

ATO email scam

Source: ATO

These scam emails are not from a legitimate ATO email address. The following email addresses have been identified as scams: ATOep152@ref2.case927349.review and atogovau@ato.gov.com.

These fake emails also do not address consumers by name and may offer a tax refund that they weren't expecting. The emails often request that you download a form, which is a good way to spot a scam. If you receive an email you believe to be scam, forward it to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au, and then delete the email immediately.

If you are yet to complete your tax return, time is running out to do so. Make sure you get your return filed before the 31 October deadline.

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