Protect Yourself Against ATO Scams
Death and taxes. Not only are both certain to happen, they also both scare people, and quite understandably.
Phone scams are all too common these days, and clever scammers are targeting the scared and naïve, attempting to intimidate vulnerable people into paying a non-existent tax debt over the phone.
How do you spot a phone scam and how can you protect yourself?
Whilst ‘The Taxman’ is sometimes cast as the villain, the Australian Taxation Office does respect your privacy and safety. If you have any kind of debt owing to the ATO, the first you hear about it will not be an aggressive automated message or phone call threatening to carry out an arrest warrant.
Scammers impersonating the ATO usually demand payment using wire transfer, which is almost impossible to trace, and will often leave a VOIP number should a message be left. The ATO, or any other government department or financial institution will never request a wire transfer of funds, and will, provide you with an Australian land line phone number. Should a payment be required, you will receive the details of legitimate and traceable transaction facilities. You should never send money via wire transfer to anyone you don’t know and trust, or provide any bank account details or credit card numbers to anyone you didn’t yourself call and initiate the contact with. If there is any doubt hang up and call the ATO directly. When you contact the Australian Taxation Office you will be asked to safely and securely verify your details if required.
You may also receive contact from a scammer claiming to have an unexpected refund or grant, but will require you to provide some sort of identifying information or even a fee to access the windfall. These offers may come via phone, SMS or email and the SMS and email approaches in particular can be quite sophisticated and convincing. Spoofed email addresses and links included can appear to be quite legitimate. The goal of these approaches is identity theft. Never click on the link as they are likely to contact malware that put you at risk of financial loss at worst, and a nasty computer virus at best. If something looks too good to be true, it usually is.
The ATO has examples of scam emails that can assist you to identify suspicious approaches and if you receive any contact that you suspect is a scam, from the ATO or otherwise, it is always helpful to report to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission by calling 1300 795 995 or via the SCAMwatch report a scam page.
The ATO isn’t the boogey man, and they won’t make aggressive and threatening contact with you or jump out at you when you are least expecting it.