Beware the tax man
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned consumers to look out for tax-related scams. They advise people to hang up on suspicious callers and delete suspicious emails after Scam Watch has received reports from more than 300 people who've lost over $1 million to tax scammers in the first half of the year.
The scammers often claim that you haven't paid enough tax and that you must repay your debt immediately.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard says that tax scammers are particularly aggressive, pressuring people to pay quickly without question. The most threatening scammers even say that police are on their way to arrest you but can be stopped if you pay immediately.
The scammers will often convince you that they're legitimate by using personal information that they've found online, asking you to clear your unpaid debt via credit card, money wire transfers or direct debits. The scammers can also disguise an overseas phone number using a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone number to look like a local phone number.
Better safe than sorry
While the Australian Tax Office (ATO) makes thousands of outbound calls to taxpayers every week, they would never make an unsolicited call about a debt, or request you make payment using pre-paid iTunes or Visa cards, nor ask you to pay directly into a personal bank account.
If you're unsure, the ATO advises you hang up and call their office on 1800 008 540.
Any unusual requests to send payment via money transfer, gift card or other digital currency should be treated as highly suspicious. Your personal details, including your tax file number, credit card or bank details are valuable and should never be provided to a stranger. If you hand over your personal information to a scammer, they can use it for identity theft or to commit other crimes, warns Rickard.
Other tax-related scams aim to get your personal details using phishing emails. The ATO says that while it does communicate using email, it does not request personal details including banking information and if these were required, consumers would be redirected to ATO online services.
CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey says scammers will try every trick in the book to do you out of your dough, so it's important to take steps to protect yourself.
Scammers bank on you feeling the pressure to act quickly and often prey on your anxieties around late bill payments or other financial commitments.
- If you receive a call or email from the "ATO" claiming you're entitled to a refund, owe money, or asking to confirm or update personal details such as your tax file number, hang up (or delete, if it's an email) then verify the caller/sender by contacting the ATO on 1800 008 540.
- Never share your tax file number, myGov details or bank account details on social media.
- Change your passwords if you've shared them with anyone, including family and friends.
- If an email looks suspicious, don't reply, open attachments, or click on any links.
- Make sure your tax agent is registered by checking www.tpb.gov.au/onlineregister.
- Contact your bank immediately if you think you've provided your account details to a scammer.
Read our tips on how to save money at tax time.