The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has warned of a massive rise in scammers who aim to rob people of their hard-earned money by pretending to be from the tax authority.
To protect themselves, the ATO advises Aussies to stop and think before giving away personal details or hard-earned money to scammers this tax time.
Kath Anderson, assistant commissioner at the Australian Taxation Office, said 48,084 scams were reported to the ATO between July and October.
“We have already seen a five-fold increase in scams from January to May this year and typically expect further increases during the tax time period,” Anderson said.
“Already this year, the ATO has registered over 17,067 scam reports. Of these, 113 Australians handed over $1.5 million to fraudsters with about 2,500 providing some form of personal information, including tax file numbers.”
The large number of people lodging their tax returns means scammers are particularly active, according to Anderson.
“[Hence] it’s important to keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious and protect your private information.”
While many Aussies are generally good at detecting and reporting scams, some scams are harder to spot than others.
“Scammers locate genuine ATO numbers from our website and project these numbers in their caller ID in an attempt to legitimise their call – a form of impersonation known as ‘spoofing’.
While we do make thousands of calls per week to the community, our outbound calls do not project numbers on caller ID. If one appears, it’s most likely a scam.”
Anderson reminded people to be wary of emails, phone calls, and SMS during tax time that claim to be from the ATO, even if it appears legitimate.
“If you’re ever unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, call us on 1800 008 540. If it’s real, we will connect you with the right area of the ATO,” she said.
If you think you or someone you know has fallen victim to a tax-related scam, please call the ATO at 1800 008 540 to make a report.
For more information on how to verify or report a scam, visit ato.gov.au/scams. For updates on the latest scams, visit Scamwatch.
Top tips to avoid getting scammed
1. Be aware of the information you share.
You should only share your personal info with people you trust and with organisations with a legitimate need for it.
Also, don’t reply to any SMS or email with your personal or financial information.
2. Keep your online data secure.
Keep your mobile devices and computers secure by changing your passwords regularly.
You should also keep your anti-virus, malware, and spyware protection software up-to-date and don’t click on suspicious links.
3. Recognise scams.
If someone asks you for your bank account or personal details, or demands money, refunds, or free gifts, be cautious, advises the ATO.
Also, avoid requests via emails and SMS requesting you to click on a link to log onto government or banking digital services.