Avoid being scammed by bogus ATO calls at tax time

If you suspect a scam, call the ATO on 1800 008 540 or Scamwatch on 1300 795 995 straight away, plus your bank if you think a scammer has your credit card details.

If you suspect a scam, call the ATO on 1800 008 540 or Scamwatch on 1300 795 995 straight away, plus your bank if you think a scammer has your credit card details.

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With tax time upon us, it’s much nicer to spend time thinking of how you’ll spend your tax refund than worrying about losing your hard-earned money.

But reports of people being contacted by scammers who claim to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) have prompted a warning from the real ATO.

Suspicious communications could be in the form of emails, faxes, SMS and phone calls and, according to the ATO, they are likely aimed at tricking you into handing over money or your personal details.

If the person on the other end of the phone asks you to pay money to receive a refund or payment from ATO or Centrelink, alarm bells should ring because neither of those agencies does that – ever. The ATO also never asks you to pay a debt via prepaid credit cards, iTunes gift cards, or directly into a personal bank account, nor does it ask you for personal information such as your tax file number or credit card number via email or SMS, or ask for credit card details to process a payment on your behalf.

If scammers get hold of your personal information, they can use it to access your bank accounts, take out loans in your name, steal your identity, lodge false tax returns or claim Centrelink or other benefits.

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Eileen, 65, was contacted by scammers pretending to be from the ATO. They told her she had committed tax fraud,a federal crime, and she was transferred to a ‘senior operator’ who said if she paid $4,997 immediately, the charges would be dropped.

The quickest way to settle the debt, she was told, was to buy iTunes gift cards and provide the card numbers over the phone. The scammers also demanded she fax copies of her identity documents.

Eileen bought $5,000 in iTunes cards and faxed the documents to the scammers. Sadly, she won’t be able to recover the dollar value of the gift cards and her personal information could be used, or even sold, by criminals.

Scam indicators can also include ​threats of imprisonment, deportation, or to take your financial situation public and using an aggressive tone and telling you not to contact anybody about your debt.