Scammers are constantly looking for new and subversive ways to trick people into giving them their money. Impersonating trusted organisations has become a common feature of scams being sent (email, phone or text).
Unfortunately, even the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is not safe from impersonation by fraudsters.
Social Media Scams
An alert released in January warns taxpayers to be vigilant about fake social media accounts impersonating employees, senior staff & the ATO itself.
These fake accounts ask users that interact with the ATO to send them a direct message so they can help with their enquiry. The people behind these fake accounts are trying to steal your personal information, including phone numbers, email addresses and bank account information.
The best way to verify that it’s really the ATO is to:
- check how many people follow the account. The ATO’s verified Facebook and LinkedIn accounts have over 200,000 followers, and their Twitter account has over 65,000 followers
- check activity on the accounts. The ATO’s official social media channels have been operating for around 10 years – if it’s a newly created account, or only has a few posts, it’s not us
- look for the grey tick next to the username (@ato_gov_au) on Twitter and the blue tick next to their name (Australian Taxation Office) on Facebook
- make sure any email addresses provided to you end with ‘.gov.au’.
How To Identify A Scam
In the lead-up to the end of the financial year, be especially vigilant of potential tax scams lurking around you. Some of the common features of a scam (depending on the type) are described below.
- Scammers may use technology to show real ATO or Australian phone numbers in the caller ID or call log
- TRUTH: when the ATO actually calls you, the number shows as No Caller ID.
- Scammers may tell you that your tax file number (TFN) has been cancelled or suspended due to money laundering or other criminal activity
- TRUTH: TFNS are not cancelled by the ATO
- Scammers may refuse to allow you to speak with a trusted adviser or your regular tax agent
- TRUTH: The ATO will never prevent you from speaking with your trusted adviser/agent
- Scammers may request payment being made through retail gift cards, vouchers, cardless cash ATM withdrawals, cryptocurrency, offshore wire or even by paying money into a personal bank account.
- TRUTH: The ATO does not accept payment through vouchers, retail gift cards, cardless cash ATM withdrawals, cryptocurrency or offshore wire transfers. The ATO will only ask for tax debt to be paid into a bank account held by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
- Scammers may request that you pay a fee to receive a tax refund. They will usually ask you to pay the fee using your credit card and then steal your credit card details.
- TRUTH: The ATO will never ask you to pay a fee to receive your refund.