Fake ATO scam: Melbourne grandmother scammed of $5000

A Melbourne grandmother is the victim of a $5000 ATO scam involving iTunes gift cards.

Fake ATO scam: Melbourne grandmother scammed of $5000

A Melbourne grandmother was cheated out of $5000 by a conman claiming to be from the Australian Tax Office (ATO), who ordered her to pay penalties with iTunes gift cards or go to jail.

The victim of the cruel yet clever scam, 67-year-old Glenice Harrison had just done a nine-day stint in hospital with pneumonia. On her return, she found five voice messages from the ATO ordering her to pay back a $9000 debt or she would serve a jail term.

Ms Harrison thought the debt may have been related to her small business and, after a six-hour conversation with a man bearing an Indian accent, she was convinced that she had no choice but to repay the debt. 

The fake ATO consultant had a good knowledge of the Australian tax system, as well as Ms Harrison’s personal and financial details.

She questioned the legitimacy of the phone call, but because the conman knew her details and because she was told that she had the right to make a police report but doing so would see her apprehended and charged, she was convinced the call was real.

“I was getting hooked, deeper and deeper,” she said. “They assured me if I could pay back the monies owing, my fraudulent activities would not be made public.”

Although she was cajoled into believing the scammer was legitimate, she still was not prepared to give her credit card details over the phone. She was then told she could repay the amount using iTunes gift cards. The scammer even walked her through purchasing 10 $500 gift cards from Woolworths stores around Melbourne. She was bullied into buying more but thankfully, she had reached her credit card limit at Woolworths.

Once she had bought the gift cards, and with the impression that she was under surveillance, Ms Harrison then sat in her car and relayed the iTunes activation codes to the conman.

Ms Harrison reported the scam to the police but she is unlikely to have her money refunded.

“Very cruel and vicious” is how Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett labelled the scam, warning others to be wary of such fraudulent schemes.

“Consumer Affairs Victoria has already had hundreds of complaints and we know that it’s replicated nationally,” she said. “They’re very good at getting people on the hook.”

Read more at www.9news.com.au

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    COMMENTS

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    particolor
    11th May 2016
    10:53am
    I don't know how anyone gets scammed by them ? Most of the time they cant even spell :-)
    The worst ones doing the rounds are the Fake Telstra's :-(
    Adrianus
    12th May 2016
    12:03pm
    After six hours of trying to understand what they're saying I don't blame anyone for reaching breaking point. :<(

    11th May 2016
    10:54am
    Cajoled into buying iTunes gift cards to pay an ATO penalty!? Sorry, this kind of stupidity wouldn't even appear in a Three Stooges movie.
    margie
    11th May 2016
    11:13am
    They would be lucky to get $5.00 from me let alone $5.000, simply do not have that kind of money and would venture to say not many elderly would. Have to agree Fast Eddie this woman is either quite stupid or more likely has obviously diddled the ATO in her previous business to even think it was legitimate.A little bit more than meets the eye here. I think most of us know whether we owe any money to the ATO and them asking for iTunes gift cards would definitely alert most people and as for speaking on the phone for 6 hours to the scammers, well she has a stronger bladder than most.
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    2:56pm
    Portable phone.
    Gra
    12th May 2016
    7:00pm
    Some people simply deserve to be scammed. Margie, you hit the nail on the head there, if she had been honest and above board with her dealings with the ATO there would be no reason to think otherwise than that the call was a scam. To fall for the iTunes payment is mind blowing.
    biddi
    11th May 2016
    10:56am
    I have an answering machine. SO often the phone rings and no message is left.
    2 weeks ago an ATO scammer left a long, well-rehearsed message on the machine.
    Reported it to ScamWatch. The return call number starts with 02 but as was explained,
    this call, with an Indian accent, more than probably never came from NSW let alone Australia. It has probably something to do with VOIP. Please can someone explain 'VOIP'. Thanks.
    particolor
    11th May 2016
    11:11am
    Its a cheap Voice Over IP System ! Run by Telstra I think ? OK ?:-)
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    11:16am
    If during any phone conversation the caller says "Hooley dooley" it is advisable to hang up as the likelihood of a scam is fairly high.
    particolor
    11th May 2016
    11:35am
    My last one said "Holy Magolly" I think he was Irish ? :-)
    Wstaton
    11th May 2016
    11:59am
    Voip is used by telstra but they did not invent it. It can be used by any phone provider. Voip is used by the NBN to connect phone calls.

    You can even download software onto your PC and use it.

    It simply uses the internet to connect you.

    You can use Skype or other similar software to use. Between Skype users there is no charge but if you want to connect to an external phone then you have to have credit.

    The reason that it is cheaper especially between countries is that it uses the internet to connect to the other country (no charge in this as the internet is free) but if it has to go to a external exchange (which it doesn't if you go to another Skype user connected to Skype on their PC) Then of course there is a charge. Because the exit is in that country it virtually classed as a local call.
    fearlessfly
    11th May 2016
    12:03pm
    VOIP is actually an acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol, been around for years
    Wstaton
    11th May 2016
    12:16pm
    I should add that VOIP does use your data allowance on any plan you may have.
    David
    11th May 2016
    3:33pm
    I have been using VOIP for 10 years and have saved many thousands of dollars in doing so. It costs me $99 per annum ($8.25 per month) which includes 200 untimed calls every month to any landline in Australia.
    I also have a 'Naked ADSL' service which means I don't pay any monthly rental fees to Telstra, saving me $480 per annum.
    Unfortunately Telstra doesn't offer VOIP on its home broadband or naked ADSL. The reason is that they'd be losing too much money.
    Most internet providers (excluding Telstra) offer VOIP and naked ADSL, including iinet, Internode, Mynetfone etc. I'm with Mynetfone.
    MB100D
    12th May 2016
    4:51pm
    When you get Broadband you automatically get VOIP capability as the Fibre to the Node (FTTN) takes the place of your phone line from the Node. All NBN plans that I have seen include free local and std calls Australia wide and Telstra loses it's line rental charges.
    Wstaton
    12th May 2016
    5:15pm
    True Retired Knowall but one has to pay an extra monthly fee on top of the standard NBN broadband plan to use it.
    particolor
    12th May 2016
    5:19pm
    He thought he got away with something didn't he ? :-) :-) They see you coming ! :-) And wring every drop out of You !! :-)
    Travelling Man
    11th May 2016
    11:21am
    After your initial "hello", if the caller has an Indian or Asian accent, hang up without further talk. Don't get into any conversation with them. This really hurts them. If the caller has an Australian accent tell them to send you a letter and hang up. Any government department or major corporation like Telstra will always send you a letter if a payment is due. My sympathy to the Melbourne grandmother. These low life prey on the honesty and decency of her generation.
    Occasional Traveller
    11th May 2016
    1:34pm
    Ha! Good one. I had someone ring about my overdue Telstra account and I just swore at them and hung up. ( only ever had problems with Telstra and hadn't been with them for years). Thing is the caller had an Indian accent but I just thought its those Telstra idiots still getting it wrong ! Realised upon reflection it was a scam so didn't feel bad about my bad behaviour!
    particolor
    11th May 2016
    3:43pm
    Did you know you can ask for an Australian Speaking call back at Telstra ? I found that out yesterday ! It worked for Me !! And I got the Computer fixed:-) :-) twice before I got someone speaking Swaheely or something ? and got nowhere ! :-(
    fearlessfly
    11th May 2016
    11:34am
    Don't want to sound condescending, but I cannot believe ANYONE could fall for this crap these days, there's so much material out there warning people about it. I do Tech Support for Seniors and I am constantly warning older folk about this garbage.
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    11:41am
    fearlessfly, you do not sound condescending, and actually quite helpful with your support, but do any of the seniors get startled by your countenance?
    fearlessfly
    11th May 2016
    11:44am
    No way mate, when I'm teaching I wear a Donald Trump mask !
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    11:51am
    Good, they are a LOT braver in this case than I imagined.

    11th May 2016
    11:43am
    Good Morning all I have a connection with a Tax Agent and also the Taxation Department and I can tell you that their initial contact is always by mail never by Phone sms or any other source. It has to be done this way to be legal.
    LiveItUp
    11th May 2016
    7:08pm
    I have been rang by the ATO on various occasions but it has been over some very specific things.
    Bookworm
    11th May 2016
    12:17pm
    I must agree with most of the respondents. There is no excuse for her stupidity. Who on Earth would believe that the ATO would accept payment by iTunes gift cards? Duh!! Wake up, people - there are thousands of criminals world-wide who want to con you out of your money. How hard is it to call the ATO if you think something is a bit sus? Use your brain!
    particolor
    11th May 2016
    12:36pm
    That's Right ! If it Smells like a Pole Cat its a Pole Cat !! :-)
    Wstaton
    11th May 2016
    12:23pm
    It may seem strange that someone is conned to pay ATO with Itunes gift cards. But we should remember this grandmother had just come out of a 9 day stay in hospital so she probably had many other things on her mind and not thinking to clearly after what was obviously a serious illness.
    Sundays
    11th May 2016
    12:37pm
    I had a similar phone call, and he was very aggressive, so I can understand how she was intimidated. However, when I asked him to tell me my full name, date of birth and tax file number he hung up. In a six hour phone call she probably gave him all the information he needed
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    12:42pm
    It's my firm policy to NEVER give my personal details on an incoming call. I always ask the caller for a reference number or name, then phone the organization back. Even if the caller could give me personal information, I wouldn't accept their legitimacy. I've had several legitimate calls from the ATO and my bank, etc. and I find that when I decline to identify myself because it's an incoming call, the response is always ''Of course. Very sensible. Here's a reference number. Please call back when convenient.'' I never call back on a number they give, either. Always the main publicly listed number.

    It's really quite simple to protect yourself if you apply some common sense rules.
    fearlessfly
    11th May 2016
    4:47pm
    You should only accept a call from ANY company if you are expecting them to respond to a query you have already made on them, otherwise hang up immediately !

    11th May 2016
    12:39pm
    A bit hard to believe anyone would think the ATO would accept payment in iTunes gift cards!
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    12:55pm
    These people are born every day. Scary!
    KSS
    11th May 2016
    1:24pm
    Sorry this woman is only 67, hardly senile even if she was recovering from a trip to hospital. Seriously! Paying an ATO debt with iTunes cards? Who does that?

    If anyone could think this is in any way legit, I have a nice, regularly painted bridge in Sydney to sell. Buyer collects!
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    4:32pm
    KSS can you send me a picture I was looking for a nice cheap bridge
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    9:30pm
    I have options on The Hoover Dam, General Motors, and Hang Sen in China, plus a miscellaneous portfolio amounting to an addition al $330m .... anyone who is interested - I'm just looking to retire so 10% would do me..... the portfolio is worth around $150Bn, but health reasons (my ex is very sick right now and I am funding Cancer Curers International fully and I need the cash) force me to sell so that someone else can get a decent benefit. Transfer of shares portfolio is immediate on payment of a 20% deposit.... then we can sort the rest later.....

    God be with you, investors.
    bebby
    11th May 2016
    1:37pm
    I hope her six hour phone call wasn't reverse charge.
    bob
    11th May 2016
    2:09pm
    I was feeling a bit sorry for her until the statement that -if i did not pay my fraudulent activities would be made public-maybe her payment was guilt driven.if she was in business and did not realize that the tax department does not do I-TUNES there was no hope
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    2:45pm
    Looney Tunes.
    The Brew Master
    11th May 2016
    3:59pm
    I had a similar call, also Indian accent. He told me that the Police were coming to arrest me for fraud charges relating to money owed to the ATO. I just kept asking him to tell me my postal address & my tax file number. When he hesitated I told him to p#@s o*f then hung up on him. Next time it will be a very loud umpires whistle down the phone.
    fearlessfly
    11th May 2016
    4:48pm
    Good on yer mate ! Right response for these assholes !
    BElle
    11th May 2016
    4:07pm
    I have just, today, received not one but two of these calls. I have reported it to my Telco provider and they are going to monitor the situation for 30 days. If they are able to establish who is calling they will co-operate with the police and follow up the calls. if you receive any of these calls then Please Report it. Hanging the phone up and not calling them back is mandatory. You will be instructed by your provider as to how you should handle this situation. PLEASE DO NOT ENGAGE THIS VERMIN OF HUMANITY IN ANY WAY. I too am a pensioner but savvy enough not to take this without fighting back. I am concerned that people such as my 99yr old father will be conned as he would be unable to counter their rhetoric.
    johninmelb
    11th May 2016
    8:42pm
    No-one has to "counter their rhetoric".

    You just hang up. What part of this don't people understand.

    Tell your father not to respond to anyone on the phone, especially to do with money. He should just to ask for a name and number. Then you can check the legitimacy or not.

    Realistically, other than friends and family, how many genuine people are going to call your father at his age?
    particolor
    11th May 2016
    9:47pm
    They don't care who you are ! They just Dial Around until they get a Sucker !! :-(

    11th May 2016
    4:52pm
    Perhaps a collection could be started for her to make up for her short-fall in funds, similar to that for people whose houses have burnt down and they have no insurance, or for people who want to pay for family funerals, or for people who have invested in shonky ventures which have gone bust, or those who have lost wallets, or don't have a job, or don't want to work. Have a heart!
    Suzie Mou
    11th May 2016
    5:05pm
    Sorry this does not fall into that category !!!
    roy
    11th May 2016
    7:34pm
    Hear hear, it could have been your mum.
    Anonymous
    12th May 2016
    8:59am
    Can you take one for me also please, Fast Eddie. I have just buried my mother and I have a sick partner whose medicines aren't on PBS, and my bank shares and Woolworths shares have gone down and... oh damn, I forget what the other problems were but I'm sure there were several bad ones. Not quite senile enough yet to be conned by someone pretending to be from the ATO, happily, but that's probably partly because I'm not rich enough to actually HAVE a tax bill. If she THOUGHT she owed tax, at 67, she's not doing too badly.
    Anonymous
    12th May 2016
    9:25am
    Thanks, Rainey. You know EXACTLY what I mean about the thick hides of some people. I typed the above with tongue in cheek.
    Suzie Mou
    11th May 2016
    5:03pm
    I am amazed at just how gullible some people are. Fancy paying an ATO debt with iTunes gift cards, come on !!! There have been so many warnings over many years about these scams I find this all a bit hard to swallow.
    LiveItUp
    11th May 2016
    7:23pm
    I have had several of these calls left on my message bank. When I got the first one I had to play it a couple of times because it was an Aussie accent and was quite convincing. So I typed the number into Google (as I do with all numbers that I don't recognise) and got the whole scam story.

    11th May 2016
    7:47pm
    To be honest, she is a silly woman. ATO has never rung people to pay. Why hasn't she got her number on the do not call register?
    What really amazes me is that she actually bought iTunes Gift cards, this shows how silly she is. Sorry but I am not really sympathetic to her plight.
    I get emails like this and I just refer them to the scam website, the latest one is a Nigerian scam out of Spain. Some people will fall for anything I guess.
    Further to this woman is the fact that she is 67 yrs and should have know better, getting older does not mean you stop thinking and paying attention.
    MONICA
    11th May 2016
    8:33pm
    I got conned late last year from an indian who was siting in a Calcutta primary school it was found out later ie he said his name was jonathan grey (that's before I knew of the original book story)I had purchased a program for my laptop but the company had gone bust so they were returning my money & because it came out of my flexi account had to have the money put into it ... to cut a long story short they were laundering money through my account & another lady's account I could never find out why I had money left in my account every week as it was supposedly a closed account to cut it shorter I went to the police not once but twice to tell them there was something going on in my account they didn't want to know until another lady told them I was hacking her account from india & took $12,000 from her eventually the nab was able to get her money back but the police in india and Australia were never able to get the elusive Johnathan Grey lol

    11th May 2016
    9:15pm
    I'm still waiting for my cheque for two million Euros.... I sent them my P O Box... nothing yet.... must take a while to process..

    Personally I can never understand how anyone would respond to the Pirates Of The Current Aeon - Tax Assessors.... without some solid written approach. How The Fork could a woman who was a pensioner feel she could possibly owe the ATO $5000?

    If the ATO REALLY wanted money from me - they would be fighting me for it anyway.

    Like every other thief - they can eat my shorts....
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    9:20pm
    Heeey! Where's my castle in Dusseldorf and my 1.7 Million EU from the Irish Lottery? And I'd like to hear from the solicitor who is handling my succession to the Ancient High Castle AND the title....

    I expect my just desserts here and now! Jeez - those things take SOOOO long to clear through my bank account.... easier to send to my P O Box.... but you know how Australia Post is these days....... so hard to find good servants....
    Anonymous
    11th May 2016
    9:22pm
    The ATO would be fighting me to the death over $5000. Just saying.... their ass is as grassy as every other government instrumentality - to me at this time....
    wendan31
    12th May 2016
    1:58am
    I also received one of these emails from the supposed ATO, I still have the email in my computer - I got onto the complaints site of the ATO and put in my complaint, it was answered by a very foreign speaking person who had rung me on a private number so I could not reply to him by phone, I was also told by him that even being on a full pension I had to tell the ATO each year that I was not going to submit a tax form, does anyone else on a full aged pension submit a tax form each year?????
    Anonymous
    12th May 2016
    8:04am
    No need to submit a form at all as you are completely exempt from taxation get hold of a tax pack this year and you will find a simple form to fill out which will exempt you for life (this form may be on the internet)
    Not Senile Yet!
    13th May 2016
    12:49pm
    Sorry but this story makes the Movie "Dumb & Dumber" look quite real!
    So sad.....but it begs the question......"Why has the Federal Police not taken on the Role of Fraud Scammers and pursued these offenders"???
    No don't say they haven't enough staff....because they have far too many....and they are ALL payed by our ever increasing Taxes!!!
    Tedwalker
    14th May 2016
    5:16pm
    I used to get regular calls from someone with an Indian voice, and difficult to understand, purporting to be from Microsoft, and advising that my computer needed attention.
    I told them that I didn't have a computer and hung up, but that didn't stop the calls.
    However, I haven't had any calls for a few months.
    particolor
    14th May 2016
    5:32pm
    I did too ! Until I told him I think he is Fake us O Calcuttas !!
    particolor
    15th May 2016
    7:09pm
    Should have told them he wanted to know How to get to Cape York towing a Tinny !! :-)
    Tonyb
    15th May 2016
    5:39pm
    I received these calls & from a recognisable Australian number.
    Followed up with ATO, police & Telstra.
    I don't understand why they couldn't track this guy through the number or, at least, disable the number.
    But, no one was all that interested.

    16th May 2016
    7:52am
    Read reports that this scammer fooled a lot of Tasmanians. Unbelievable that people can be so stupid. I've given up hoping the election will result in any useful outcomes. Appears the majority of voters are even dumber than the useless overpaid fat-cat politicians who are destroying this country.


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