In a sign of just how bad scams have gotten, the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones, has issued a warning for Australians to beware of scams that are circulating in the lead up to tax time 2023. According to the government, the number of scam reports received to date for the 2022-23 income year is already at 19,843 and is projected to exceed the 20,000 scams reported in the 2021-22 income year.
Tax time scams typically involve the impersonation of the ATO to obtain personal information or solicit unlawful payment. The common tricks tax scammers are using ahead of the 2022-23 tax time include:
- posing as the ATO on social media offering to help individuals with tax and super questions, which require personal information such as TFN, DOB, names, addresses etc;
- luring unsuspecting individuals with an offer of a fake refund in return for the provision of personal information;
- in conversations via phone, social media private messages, email and text, attempting to keep the individual engaged for as long as possible through various means including threats and intimidation, offers to help etc, to either collect personal information or solicit payment.
The ATO now has a dedicated team that monitors and assists taxpayers that have fallen victims to scammers. While the ATO will sometimes contact taxpayers by phone, email, SMS or post, it will never send out links to login to their online services or ask taxpayers to send personal information via any means. To be extra cautious, the ATO recommends that if taxpayers are unsure whether the communication they’ve received is genuinely from the ATO, they should not reply and look up the ATO’s number on its website and not call any number shown in the caller ID, phone log, SMS, or voicemail.
Many scammers will use spoofing technology to show a real ATO or an Australian phone number in the caller ID or call log. The ATO notes that its calls will not show a number and will be shown as No Caller ID. In addition, as some scammers may also attempt to get the individual into a conference call with a third party of fake tax or law enforcement officers, the ATO sates that it will never pull any individual into a conference call with a third party including the individual’s tax agent or other law enforcement.
In terms of SMS and email communications, the ATO says it will never send an unsolicited message asking individuals to return personal identifying information through these channels. It also does not send links or attachments for taxpayers to open or download. If the communication contains either a link or attachment and is purportedly from the ATO, it is highly likely to be a scam.
Individuals that have fallen victim to an ATO scam are encouraged to contact their bank for financial institution if financial information or money was provided to the scammer, make an official report to local police, and report the scam to the ATO through either their hotline, or the specific scams email address.
This article is for general information only. It does not make recommendations nor does it provide advice to address your personal circumstances. To make an informed decision, always contact a registered tax professional.