Retiree one of 6000 victims fleeced by scammers

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An elderly man was threatened with arrest and fleeced of $236,000 as a result of a recorded phone scam claiming to represent the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

He was one of the 6000 victims who have since July handed over personal and banking details to callers impersonating the tax man.

The ATO said yesterday that in November alone, a flood of scam phone calls had netted more than $800,000 from unsuspecting Australians who believed they faced arrest.

The recorded message orders people to return the call immediately on hanging up or an arrest warrant will be issued.

Aged in his 70s, the scam victim reportedly paid the funds over the course of five months through a combination of bank transfers and iTunes vouchers, the ATO told YourLifeChoices.  

“A relative of the NSW gentleman, who is more than 70 years old, reported the scam to the ATO via the dedicated scam line 1800 008 540,” the tax office said.

“The ATO cannot directly prosecute for scam activity unless it results in tax or superannuation fraud. Scammer activity is a matter for local law enforcement.

“As such any payments made to scammers should be immediately reported to the police. You should also contact your bank or financial institution if you have given your credit card or bank details to someone who shouldn’t have them.

“Due to the overseas nature of this criminal activity prosecution is problematic and recovery of funds is highly unlikely.”

The ATO has warned Australians to be on high alert for the calls, which can be easily identified as a robotic message in a male voice with an American accent.

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said over the past month the ATO has seen an increase in scam phone calls, especially those using software that resembles a legitimate phone number to disguise the caller’s true identity.

“The ATO does not project our numbers using caller ID. You can be confident that if there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it isn’t the ATO,” Ms Anderson said.

More than 37,000 reports of scam attempts were reported in November alone, with one elderly person losing more than $236,000 to scammers between June and November this year.

“Taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message, email or letter about a tax refund or debt, especially if you weren’t expecting it,” she said.

While the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that the scammers are not genuine. The ATO will not:

  • use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation
  • request payment of a debt via iTunes, pre-paid visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a bank account with a BSB that isn’t either 092-009 or 093-003
  • request a fee in order to release a refund owed to you
  • send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment.

“If you suspect that you have been contacted by a scammer, you should contact our call centre. It’s okay to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or to report a scam,” Ms Anderson said.

“While phone scams are the most common at the moment, scammers are constantly changing tactics.

“Taxpayers play an important role in stopping scammer activity by reporting them to our scam line. Your reports help us to get an accurate picture of what is happening with the current scams, which ultimately helps protect the Australian community.”

The ATO’s dedicated scam reporting line is 1800 008 540. For the latest alerts and more information, visit

These are the ATO’s top tips to protect yourself from scammers:

  1. Know your tax affairs – you can log into myGov to check your tax affairs at any time, or you can contact your tax agent or the ATO.
  2. Guard your personal and financial information – be careful when clicking on links, downloading files or opening attachments. Only give your personal information to people you trust, and don’t share it on social media.
  3. If you are unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, don’t reply. Instead, call the ATO on 1800 008 540.
  4. Know the legitimate ways to make payments – scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying false debts with pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check whether a payment method is legitimate, visit
  5. Talk to your family and friends about scams – if you or someone you know has fallen victim to a tax-related scam, call the ATO as soon as possible.

Have you received a scam phone call or email claiming to be from the ATO or any other authority? If so, what did you do?

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Here’s how you can become more scam savvy

The ACCC has released a handy weapon to help you become more scam savvy.

ACCC warns of new scams with people impersonating police

Scammers are increasingly catching out people by impersonating well-known businesses.

Scammers pocket $4.3m a month, on track for a record

People aged 45 to 64 most at risk, ACCC warns.

Written by Olga Galacho


Total Comments: 32
  1. 0

    I had one of those calls some years ago. When I laughed in his ear, that was when I was threatened with arrest.
    They are very clever though, and I feel sad for the ones who fall for these evil scams.

  2. 0

    I cannot understand why these crims are not trapped and jailed for at least 5 years? There seems to be no will to catch and incarcerate criminals any more so you get a free for all where stealing is now a permitted activity.
    Where are our governments in all of this? Looking the other way?

    • 0

      99% of the scammers are overseas, I believe. In some cases they can be traced with considerable resources. But they are extremely clever and work in huge groups. Also, many victims don’t report the crime out of embarrassment.

    • 0

      Sure but the same deal applies. Imagine what could be done by our government if they traced a scammer back to India and demanded the Indian government prosecute and jail their crims. Not as though India does not want Australia as a trading partner. They’d have little choice.
      The issue is we have a government in bed with the crims. Mostly white collar ones but nevertheless it is a culture in the LNP.

    • 0

      Why worry about these two bit scammers when we have Shorten who will soon rob self funded retirees out of thousands per year

    • 0

      Not all scammers are overseas. There were a few scammers operating successfully for a while, netting $100,000’s. It was thought their Nigerian accent was a giveaway to their location, but they were eventually tracked down to a Sydney refugee detention centre.
      I say look in the gaols for the scammers.

    • 0

      Mick, do you really think that India, with a domestic consumer pool of over 1 billion people, would be dictated to by the Australian government with a domestic consumer pool of merely 25 million. I would suspect we would value their trade more than they value ours. The same goes for most countries with whom we have a trading relationship.You can hardly blame the LNP for scammers, it would happen under any government of any political persuasion. I am sure any government do not turn a ‘blind eye” to scammers (if for no other reason that scammers are not a source of political donations) it is just that scammers are too hard to catch then prosecute.
      As for Lothario if Mr Shorten proposes stopping all tax rorts, including stopping people getting a tax refund for tax they have not paid,then I will consider this a plus in my determination of how I vote. But not a big plus as I recently read a precis of a treasury document which concluded the ‘savings’ from this measure may be “illusionary” as affected retirees will merely transfer their funds to other, unaffected, investments. So all this indignant ranting may be no more than “a storm in a teacup”

    • 0

      Eddy you are making a fool of yourself as people who get a refund of their franking credits are getting a refund of the tax they have paid. Their dividend statement clearly says it has been franked which means they have paid tax on it.

    • 0

      Funny Lothario. The rich are given huge tax cuts with more tried on by the Turnbull government and you say nothing. Shorten proposes to restrict capital gains tax for all NEW investments to newly built properties and cut out the franking credit feeding trough and you object?
      The one place you need to focus on is in regard to tweaking the franking credit changes so that a small threshold is left in place lest self funded retirees on a modest income are cannibalised. That would be unfair……but then you are about blackening the Labor brand with mostly lies and smear right?

    • 0

      Mick Labor has been already badly tarnish by this unfair attack on self funded retirees. Now they are fighting amongst themselves too.

  3. 0

    I got one the other day and when I was threatened with arrest I told them I had been already waiting for them for over 2 weeks so would they hurry and come. They laughed and hung up.

    I also get those ones where my internet is spreading viruses, unwanted messages etc. They say that if I don’t cooperate they will disconnect my internet in 24 hours. So I say why wait just do it now and they then tell me that I should not be giving them that answer and want to refer me to a supervisor. I say no thanks and hang up. I love it when they say I am sending unwanted messages as I just say well just send them back like you do unwanted snail mail.

    I have also been getting SMS messages on my phone that my account has been blocked and to click a link. Do not click that link. However check your account online if you wish on another device or PC.

    Don’t click on those links from Google about someone trying to access your gmail account as they are fake too.

    If you get a phone call saying someone is trying to take money out of your account in New Zealand r other overseas country and they want to send you a code on your mobile to stop it. Don’t give them anything as they are after your identity so they can fleece your accounts.

    Gee I could write a book on all the scams I get.

    • 0

      Yes I am on the do not call register too.

    • 0

      We’re on the Do Not Call Register as well but still get a heap of scam calls. Last 3 nights around dinner time but other times of day as well.
      This Register is one in name only and the scammers appear to be ignoring it.

    • 0

      I queried the DNC Register about unwanted calls. I was advised that these calls originate from overseas and there is no way they can be stopped, Australian law is not effective outside our borders.

    • 0

      Obviously you’ll get calls from scammers when on the DNC register, it’s an Australian initiative in which legitimate businesses will adhere to the “Do Not Call”, bloody hell, scammers don’t take any notice even if they could get access to it.

      Do you think the crooks are going to look at the DNC register, see you on the list and say to themselves “They don’t want calls, I’ll leave them alone”. Hahaha

  4. 0

    We go to great lengths to ensure our members in our centre are aware of these scams and the Be COnnected program has free modules anyone can access online about how to protect yourself from scams. Fear is a great motivator for people who are not aware and have never had to face these issues and thats what the criminals use. Lets face it, they are criminals and should be treated as such. However, because its an overseas scam its unlikely they will ever be traced. When I get the calls and great threatened with arrest I say one of two things, “Hang on a minute, Ill put my husband on the phone, he’s the local Sargent at our police station and he will be able to assist you. Or “Come and arrest me now, but I insist you use handcuff that are pink and fluffy, and I can whip the person who arrests me.” Strangely enough Ive not ever had any more phone calls after those two responses.

    • 0

      The phone now doesn’t get answered between 6pm and 8pm at night in our house now. If it’s urgent they know how to contact us otherwise. If it’s important they can leave a message too. I am sick of scams and political surveys.

    • 0

      And why shouldn’t they be frightened, Ted, it’s not long ago that they were threatened by Centrelink over debt collection so when another so-called official calls they’re more likely to be scared into paying.

    • 0

      I sometimes use the one “Do you have a mother”? Having sucked the crook in I then come back with “How do you think your mother would feel if she knew her son was a low life crook trying to steal other people’s money”. That’s usually where they hang up but likely they get a conscience check for a minute. Needs to happen.
      Maybe my strategy is working as well as abuse from others as of late I have been getting the Telstra automated call (not from Telstra) advising the line is compromised and to hit ‘1’ to be connected to an operator. That’s when I hang up.

    • 0

      Must remember to ask Shorten that question

    • 0

      That’s the line I use as well, Mick. Usually there is a stunned silence and then they hang up.

  5. 0

    I am on the do not call register, waste of time doesn’t stop scammers. If I don’t recognise the callers number, especially between 5 and 7. One thing I found which does work, I answer with. ” Hello this is sargent H………. from W………. police, how can I help you”? Don’t know why but they always hang up.

  6. 0

    My motto NEVER let go of ANY MONEY..EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Its been too hard to earn!!!

  7. 0

    The frightening thing for old people is that the scammers know your address and quote it at you when threatening you with police action etc. Was the right address 5 years earlier, took the phone number with us. Just told them to come and arrest me, always had an accountant doing my returns and no longer need to file them. The reply was the error happened 7 years previously. They seem to have all the answers.

  8. 0

    When I asked the scammer what my tax file number was, he had no clue what I was talking about. He was aggressive from the beginning, so I understand how people can be intimidated

  9. 0

    What is also not mentioned here, in any and all communication with the ATO, the client’s Tax File Number will be used to confirm identity. If the caller cannot tell you what your TFN is, it is not a call from the ATO. Do not offer them your TFN, only confirm it if they get it right, In which case, string them along, have some fun with them, it’ll cost you nothing and aggravate them no end.

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