ATO warns of spoofing scams taking Aussies to the cleaners

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The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning Australians not to fall for a scam that has already raked in more than $1 million from unsuspecting victims.

The ATO has received 40,225 reports of impersonation scams in 2019 alone.

Caller ID on missed calls indicates the call came from the ATO. Thinking they have missed important calls, victims call back and speak to someone they think is a real ATO agent.

That is not the case.

The technique of displaying misleading phone numbers is known as ‘spoofing’ and is commonly used by scammers in an attempt to make their interactions with taxpayers appear legitimate, says the ATO.

Assistant Commissioner Gavin Siebert said that scammers have adopted ‘Robocall’ technology to target taxpayers across the country.

“Scammers are sending pre-recorded messages in record numbers and are manipulating caller identification so that your phone displays a legitimate ATO phone number, despite coming from an overseas scammer,” said Mr Siebert.

“We are now seeing thousands of Australians missing a call from a scammer, returning the call based on the number on caller ID and [mistakenly believing they are] speaking to legitimate members of the ATO.

“Our calls do not show a number on caller ID nor do we use pre-recorded messages.

“If the scammers do make contact, they will request payment of a tax debt – usually through unusual methods like bitcoin, gift cards and vouchers. Legitimate ways to pay your tax debt are listed on our website. The scammers will threaten you with immediate arrest, attempt to keep you on the line until payment is made and may become rude or aggressive.

“Taxpayers should be wary of any unexpected phone call, text message or email claiming to be from the tax office. While we may contact you in these ways, if it doesn’t seem right, independently find our phone number and check if the contact was legitimate. If you receive a pre-recorded message claiming to be from us, either hang up or simply delete the voicemail,” said Mr Siebert.

Signs you are being ‘spoofed’ include:

  • receiving an email or SMS from the ATO asking you to click on a link directing you to a login page
  • operators using aggressive or rude behaviour, or threatening you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation
  • ‘agents’ requesting payment of a debt via iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account
  • operators requesting a fee in order to release a refund owed to you.

If you have received one of these calls, emails or messages, please contact the ATO’s dedicated scam reporting line on 1800 008 540 or visit www.ato.gov.au/scams.

If you are unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, don’t reply. Call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to verify.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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20 Comments

Total Comments: 20
  1. 0
    0

    If you get one of those calls check “latest current scams” on google; or better do it now as there are many around. Got all the mentioned calls above myself over the last 12 months, was threatened with arrest etc. Most of us on land lines get these calls, presumably only oldies still have fixed lines.

    • 0
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  2. 0
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    Hey cowboy Jim. Many Australians do not have mobile coverage at home (and free-to-air tv for that matter). I’m one of them so even though I’m an oldie, it’s not only oldies who have landlines

    • 0
      0

      Thanks for that, mate. Just in our area I seem to be one of the very few still having a fixed line. Might have something to do with the requirement having to join the NBN. Now when the power is off, the phone goes as well. Now I have a cell phone as well.

  3. 0
    0

    Well, I have a land line but never use it. I don’t even have a phone connected to it but this time they found my mobile number. I listened to it and said “F#@$ off!” and disconnected.
    I went on line and checked the myGov for any messages from ATO. Clean. Called ATO and lodged a scam attempt with the number displayed on my phone (of course that will disappear in cyber space soon).

    What I don’t understand is why people still fall for this sort of things…

  4. 0
    0

    I had a call last week & after listening I said laughingly “You’ve got to be joking”.They can’t fool me.

  5. 0
    0

    I have had great fun with the ATO scam.

    When they ring me and threaten me with jail, I say “Oh, good, I couldn’t afford a holiday this year and now you’re offering me one free. I always enjoy my stays in jail, I see to it that I’m a model prisoner, then get sent to work in the library where I spend my time reading books. I’m always warmer than at home, meals are on par, my only complaint is that the bed can be a little hard, but if you become friendly with the screws they will often give you an extra mattress. Could you let me know when I can expect to be picked up so I can be packed and ready to go.”

    That’s as far as I ever get, they always hang up.

  6. 0
    0

    I have had great fun with the ATO scam.

    When they ring me and threaten me with jail, I say “Oh, good, I couldn’t afford a holiday this year and now you’re offering me one free. I always enjoy my stays in jail, I see to it that I’m a model prisoner, then get sent to work in the library where I spend my time reading books. I’m always warmer than at home, meals are on par, my only complaint is that the bed can be a little hard, but if you become friendly with the screws they will often give you an extra mattress. Could you let me know when I can expect to be picked up so I can be packed and ready to go.”

    That’s as far as I ever get, they always hang up.

  7. 0
    0

    I’d like them to try to deport me – where would they send me? Sydney, NSW – where I was born? They couldn’t even get my parents or grandparents, as all of them were born in Australia, and are now many years dead.

    • 0
      0

      If the Greenies have their way you still might be sent back to Europe as you are most probably not native. Then most of them claiming to be Abos are what we used to call “Shamrock Aboriginals” – lots of Irish surnames. LOL

  8. 0
    0

    Wouldn’t surprise me if it was run by Aussie politicians.

  9. 0
    0

    Heard about these and dozens of other scams at least a hundred times. The Govt seems have no interest to stop these – they could track these down and prosecute these thugs, if they wanted to. If they don’t have the skills, why don’t they ask the Israelis, Russians or the Chinese – they will fix it for them (and make them disappear)!

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