Tax time scam alert

23 April 2015 | Scammers are using the promise of a tax refund to get hold of your personal details.

Who doesn't want a tax refund?

You might be wary of the email promising you an inheritance in Nigeria, but how about the ATO calling you about an unexpected tax refund? Even if it sounds plausible, it's probably about as legit as your Nigerian windfall.

The end of the tax year is high season for scammers and they seem to be especially early this year: NSW Fair Trading has already issued a warning about phony callers and emails claiming to offer tax refunds.

Scammers trying to steal your identity

Here's how the scam works. Fraudsters posing as Australian Tax Office (ATO) agents claim you overpaid your taxes and are eligible for a tax refund. They may ask you to:

  • pay an upfront administration or transfer fee
  • fill in a form with your financial details
  • 'confirm' your personal data over the phone.

Be very careful with providing anyone your personal data – it may be used to steal your identity or hack into your bank account. The ACCC warned last July that Australians had already lost $300,000 to tax scammers in that year alone. The ATO never asks for personal information over the phone, via SMS or email.

What to do if you suspect you're being scammed

  • If you receive a suspicious phone call, just hang up.
  • If in doubt, ask for the name of the caller, contact the ATO or the organisation they claim to call from to check the caller`s authenticity.
  • Delete emails asking for your personal details or a 'refundable' fee.
  • Never open attachments or links in emails: scammers use malicious software to get your data and set up bogus websites, which can closely resemble the original ones.

For more information check the ATO website. To report a scam email or call 13 28 61.

To learn about other kinds of scams, check out our article on 12 online scams and how to avoid them.