Retiree one of 6000 victims fleeced by scammers

Thousands of Australians unwittingly reveal bank details after threats of arrest.

Phone scammers threaten issuing arrest warrant

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?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    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?
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    Why worry about these two bit scammers when we have Shorten who will soon rob self funded retirees out of thousands per year
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    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"
    Old Geezer
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    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?
    Old Geezer
    6th Dec 2018
    Mick Labor has been already badly tarnish by this unfair attack on self funded retirees. Now they are fighting amongst themselves too.
    6th Dec 2018
    Old Geezer
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    Old Geezer
    6th Dec 2018
    Yes I am on the do not call register too.
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    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
    Ted Wards
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    Old Geezer
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    Must remember to ask Shorten that question
    6th Dec 2018
    That's the line I use as well, Mick. Usually there is a stunned silence and then they hang up.
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    My motto NEVER let go of ANY MONEY..EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Its been too hard to earn!!!
    6th Dec 2018
    Bloody right there. Ditto.

    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    I can see how (gullible) older people might feel. That's why the scammers like them. An easy mark.
    6th Dec 2018
    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
    6th Dec 2018
    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.
    6th Dec 2018
    OK! Questions I ask young people are, how did they get my number, name and address? It's called a phone book. There are your details, printed in alphabetical order for all and sundry to see. This has been going on for more than a hundred years. If you don't know what a phone book is, they used to be delivered every year to every address with every person, Vol1, and every business, Vol 2 in Australia. You would drag them out at Christmas, to check addresses were still OK before mailing your Christmas and New Year cards. Now you can get on the internet and everyone's phone number is available anyway.

    It was so open and informative, scammers today would have a field day.

    Anyway as I too get scams every second week, my simple solution is to tell them:

    "You realize this call is monitored by the AFP"

    I either get an immediate "click" as they hang up, or if they're from Overseas I get who's the AFP? At which point, I hang up and their phone clicks. I'm sure it costs them thousands to find out if the AFP is really monitoring the call.

    The same scammers never call again.

    Here are the new tactics scammers use.

    1. English voices are taped and played back, hoping you think a person has called. Once the spiel begins interrupt the caller with: "who said what? If the spiel doesn't stop immediately, it's a tape playing in the background.

    2. The scammer tells you your computer is hacked and needs repair over the phone. Your response is "I don't have a computer".

    3. The voice is female and pleads with you with sexual overtones. Your reply "How much do you charge?"

    4. The voice has an accent and you hear many more voices in the background. Your reply "F***off" and hang up (It's a call centre)

    5. You get "I'm from the tax Office or ATO, I need your account details as I have a refund or you owe us $******. Have a little fun and waste their time by saying "Only if you can give me my wife's ATO number" Silence means they're bogus, sometimes though, the caller says, I'll bring my supervisor to talk to you. Then hit him with the AFP and ATO is monitoring the call or simply say "piss off", depending on how you're feeling that day.

    I'm sure these arseholes already have all your details and it's your bank account details they want. What's to stop someone at the Big customer section, getting hold of Telstra, Vodafone Optus or any other phone company details and selling them to the crooks? It's simple to do via the internet.

    Remember one thing, the ATO, or Centrelink will never ring you to discuss your personal affairs. They must write to you, and if the information is critical, send you a notice by registered post. Then they will tell you how to respond, or send you to an office to discuss face to face with a certified representative.

    If you want to play games with these dropouts, remember they are smart and you must be careful not to give them clues. Simple give-aways may be like:- they say they are calling from a real estate agency and ask how much you think your house is worth, or would you like to down size, and ask things like where do your grandchildren or children go to school or propose to go. You say I have one child entering high school, one at such and such college and one at university. Bingo! here is what the scammer gleans from this.

    1. Because you want to be close to these colleges and schools you will be looking at relocating, hence possibly buying and selling.

    2. They can gauge how well off you are by revealing where you would like to live.

    3. As they know your current address, a small slip like "Angela goes to XX college and will stay there as she has a year to go", or Billy wants to go to Uni nearby." Reveals their names, and as the are college age or above, they know their ages, Billy for instance must be at least 18 to enter UNI. and ripe for ripping off in a couple of years. Angela must be 16-17 and worse than getting ripped off has revealed her name, address, phone number and possibly other intimate details, giving the scammer vital pedophile information. Even if the scammer only wants your money, he makes money on the side selling your information to the pedophile and putting her in great danger. You then need to be aware, this guy can find her on the internet, and may start a relationship you may not be aware of.

    Take scammers seriously and never underestimate their cunningness. Never, ever, give them any personal information. Do not chat with them as you will easily slip up and divulge information. Follow the above suggestions and hang up as quickly as possible. Politeness doesn't come into it. If your 80 year old grandma rings, you will know instantly by her voice who she really is. If someone pretends to be your mother, sister or brother ask them how old they are, and if not correct hang up immediately. If you can't pick the voice ask 1 question only about what business they are in. Tell them you need to go to the toilet and would they mind waiting. After 5-10 minutes, see if they're still on the phone, and if so, tell them the other phone just rang and you will return in another 5-10 minutes. If they're still there it could be genuine and get more detail. The subject has to be to do with some dealing you did in the past week or month.

    Another effective chill out is to say nothing and burp into the phone. Another is to have a fart balloon handy and let them have it, you will here the magic "click" almost instantly. I could dream up typical responses and have an arsenal at hand near the phone at all times.

    Also, you will notice 90% of calls come through your house phone. That's because old people use their home phones more than mobiles, simply, mobile calls cost a lot more, and these scammers like to minimize their operating costs, they are, after all in the business of fleecing their customers at minimal cost to them - more profit to them.
    6th Dec 2018
    This is 2018, don't need a phone book anymore, the scammers have a computer that can randomly call multiple numbers, any number doesn't matter if it's valid or not, then on their screen they can see when someone answers then they go into their spiel.

    12th Mar 2020
    My total lost with these two companies was USD232,876.21 as of August 1, 2019.  I needed a major portion of this balance to pay off the down-liners who were threatening to file charges for misleading as well as fraud. Their combined balance is approximately USD300,000. ultimatefundrecovery a top wealth recovery company in the US brilliantly helped recoup 92% of my lost capital to these fraud companies all within a month. I can't thank you enough bruce wilian @ ULTIMATEFUNDRECOVERY at GMAIL dot COM I am typing this with tears rolling down my cheeks! Please stay away from HYPER YIELDING INVESTMENT PLATFORMS to avoid the agony and pain I went through! Jack Wang
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