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  • Scam alerts

    Verify or report a scam explains how to spot and report a scam.

    If you are ever unsure whether an ATO interaction is genuine, don’t reply. Call us on 1800 008 540 or visit the scams page on our website.

    Keep informed on new scam alerts by subscribing to general email updates. Subscribers will receive updates on all new general content on our website, including the latest scam alerts.

    If you speak another language more information can be found on our website to help people from non-English speaking backgrounds to learn more about scams and understand tax and superannuation (super) in Australia.

    Latest alerts:

    June 2019 – fake tax debt scam via WhatsApp

    There has been an increase in scammers using WhatsApp to impersonate the ATO. Current reports indicate the scam is the latest twist to the fake tax debt scam where scammers issue a pre-recorded voice message to your phone demanding immediate payment of a tax debt and threatening immediate arrest. In addition to requesting payment via unusual methods, the scammers may also ask call recipients to send a photo of their driver’s licence, passport or other identity credential via WhatsApp. This may result in far reaching identity compromise for victims.

    WhatsApp logo

    The ATO does not have a profile on WhatsApp and will never engage with you on this platform.

    Never give out any sensitive personal identifying information unless you can independently verify the identity of the person or organisation you are providing it to.

    Know your tax affairs - you can log into ATO online services through myGov to check your tax affairs at any time, or you can contact your tax agent or the ATO via an independently sourced number.

    Cyber criminals can also use vulnerabilities in apps such as WhatsApp to access your phone or device. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is currently advising users of WhatsApp to update your app to apply the latest security updates and set your phone and device/s to auto update.

    If you receive an ATO impersonation scam phone call or text message, and have not paid or provided sensitive personal identifying information to the scammer, you can report the scam online.

    Scam victims who have paid or provided sensitive personal identifying information to a scammer can call us on 1800 008 540. This number can also be used to verify if an interaction with the ATO is legitimate.

    See also:

    May 2019 SMS scam – tax refund notification

    Scammers are texting people, asking them to click on a link and provide personal identifying information to receive a tax refund. The image below is one example format this scam can take. If you click on the link it will take you to a fake ‘Tax Refund’ form in order to steal your personal information.

    In an effort to make the text appear real scammers use technology that makes their message appear in your legitimate ATO message feed. Remember to always exercise caution when clicking links or opening attachments in emails or SMS even if they are from someone you know.

    Text message from ‘ATO Reclaim’ saying there’s a tax refund of $2675.41 for you to claim. All you need to do is click on the website link and log on with your phone number and the ATO PIN to claim.

    The ATO does not have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form and we will never send an email or SMS asking you to access online services via a hyperlink.

    All online management of your tax affairs should be carried out in ATO online services accessed via your genuine myGov account. Make accessing ATO online services via your myGov account more secure. Update your sign-in options at my.gov.au so you receive a code by SMS when signing in.

    See also:

    April 2019 phone scam – imitating ATO phone numbers

    Similar to previous alerts we have issued in September and March last year, we are seeing an increased number of reports of scammers contacting members of the public pretending to be from the ATO and claiming that there are outstanding tax debts and threatening people with arrest if the debt is not paid immediately.

    Scammers are using technology to make it look like the calls originate from a legitimate ATO phone number. This number may appear on caller ID, be left on voice mail messages for call backs, or directed by *69 for call back functionality. Scammers do this to make the calls seem more valid when they call people a second time. Most frequently the numbers appearing are 6216 1111 and 1800 467 033, but numbers for individual ATO staff members have been used as well.

    While these scam calls may appear to be from the ATO with a spoofed caller ID, it is important to remember that a legitimate caller from the ATO will never:

    • threaten you with arrest
    • demand immediate payment, particularly through unusual means such as bitcoin, pre-paid credit cards or gift cards
    • refuse to allow you to speak with a trusted advisor or your regular tax agent
    • or present a phone number on caller ID.

    Never call a scammer back on the number they provide.

    If you are in any doubt about an ATO call hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or report a scam.

    See also:

    March 2019 email scam – myGov tax refund notification

    Scammers are emailing people from a fake myGov email address, asking them to fill out an application to receive a tax refund. The image below is one example format this scam can take. Do not click anywhere in the email as it contains a malicious link and will direct you to a fake ‘Tax Refund’ form in order to steal your personal information.

    Remember to always exercise caution when clicking links or opening attachments in emails.

    This scam email:

    • misleadingly includes the myGov logo
    • asks you to click a link that appears to be the myGov website but when hovering over the link it does not lead to a my.gov.au address
    • does not include your name
    • contains poor grammar and spelling
    • is unexpected.

    The ATO does not have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form. All online management of your tax affairs should be carried out via your genuine myGov account. Make accessing ATO online services via your myGov account more secure. Update your sign-in options at my.gov.au so you receive a code by SMS when signing in.

    See also:

    November 2018 – pre-recorded messages (robocalls)

    We are aware of scammers sending pre-recorded messages (that is, robocalls) in record numbers. They are manipulating caller identification so that your phone displays an Australian phone number, including legitimate ATO numbers despite the call coming from overseas. This is known as spoofing.

    These pre-recorded calls follow the common approach of scammers threatening immediate arrest for an unpaid tax debt, attempting to keep you on the line until payment is made and requesting payment in unusual methods such as iTunes, Google Play or other prepaid cards or by cryptocurrency.

    Listen to an example of a scam robocall:

    scamrobocall (WAV, 6.4MB)This link will download a file

    If you receive a robocall, hang up and don’t call back.

    September 2018 phone scam – fake tax agent

    ATO impersonation scams reported by the community in September 2018 highlighted a new method of initiating a three-way conversation between the scammer, the victim, and another scammer impersonating the victim’s tax agent.

    Example

    A scammer left a voicemail for Darren1, advising they were from the ATO and that Darren would go to jail for five years if he did not contact the ATO due to an outstanding debt. Darren called back on the number provided and was advised to make a payment of $9,000 straight away, as the federal police had been assigned to the case and he would go to jail for five years if the debt wasn’t settled today. Darren provided the scammer with his tax agent's number who was supposedly then dialled in by the scammer via a three-way conference call. A man by the name of John Smith answered claiming he was from the same practice as Darren’s tax agent. ‘Mr Smith’ said that Darren’s tax agent was in a meeting and not available. A fake conversation was had between Mr Smith and the original scammer with Mr Smith agreeing there was an error with Darren’s tax return and that he owed money to the ATO. Mr Smith told Darren to go to a specific location and pay the $9,000 today. Darren withdrew cash and deposited it into a Bitcoin machine.

    1

    Not his real name

    End of example

    Know the status of your tax affairs. If you are aware of the details of debts owed, refunds due and lodgments outstanding, you are less likely to fall victim to a scam. You can regularly check your details via myGov or by contacting your registered tax agent.

    If you receive a call like the example above, you can hang up and call your tax agent independently.

    Other indicators to identify a scammer:

    • They will tell you a complaint has been made against you and you are committing tax fraud or claim that you have to pay a debt that you know nothing about.
    • They may threaten immediate arrest or court if you don't call them back or pay straight away.
    • They won't provide explanations or allow you to ask questions about the debt and often get aggressive or abusive.
    • They will ask you to pay using unusual methods of payment that the ATO does not use such as iTunes, Bitcoin cryptocurrency, store gift cards or pre-paid visa cards.
    • They may offer a tax refund but you have to provide a personal credit card number for the funds to be deposited into. They don’t deposit money but instead steal funds from these cards without the knowledge of the cardholder. The ATO does not issue refunds to credit cards.

    It's OK to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or report a scam.

    See also:

    July 2018 email scam – ATO impersonation

    Scammers are sending fake ATO emails claiming they don’t have credit/debit card details stored. The email instructs the recipients to login to a fake site called ‘ATO Office Portal’ or ‘ATO Gateway Portal’. The site asks for information including online banking credentials, credit card numbers and limits and personal address information.

    Do not click on the link and do not disclose the information requested.

    An example of the July 2018 Email scam. It shows the features we describe below when explaining what to look for in a scam email.

    An example of the July 2018 Email scam. It shows the features we describe below when explaining what to look for in a scam email.

    This scam email:

    • is not sent from a legitimate @ato.gov.au sender
    • is unexpected
    • asks you to click a link that appears to be the ATO website but when hovering over the link it does not lead to an ato.gov.au address.

    We won’t send you an email with a hyperlink directing you to log on to an online service to provide personal identifying information. All online management of your tax affairs should be carried out via your myGov account. The ATO does not have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form.

    See also:

    May 2018 text message scam – fake tax refund

    May saw a spike in reports of scammers sending scam text messages similar to the example below:

    Text message from ‘ATO Refund’ saying there’s a tax refund of $275 for him to claim. All he needed to do was click on the website link and log in with his phone number and the PIN number provided in the message. He was asked to fill in personal details and provide his Tax File Number (TFN) and credit card number (including the 3 digit code from the back of his card) so his refund could be deposited into his account.

    Example

    George2 received a text message from ‘ATO Refund’ saying there’s a tax refund of $275 for him to claim. All he needed to do was click on the website link and log in with his phone number and the PIN number provided in the message. He was asked to fill in personal details and provide his Tax File Number (TFN) and credit card number (including the 3 digit code from the back of his card) so his refund could be deposited into his account. George didn’t have a credit card so he called the ATO to make other arrangements. The ATO operator advised him that the text message was a scam designed to get his information and potentially steal money from his credit card.

    2 not his real name

    Another variation of this scam asks for a small fee to be paid via personal credit or debit card in order to receive the refund. Within days of paying the small fee those impacted by the scam see sizable deductions made from their bank accounts.

    End of example

    These text message scams often:

    • appear to come from the ATO
    • tell you you’re eligible for a refund and you need to respond
    • ask you to pay a fee to receive a refund
    • contain hyperlinks that lead to a fake website or a fake log on page
    • instruct you to click on a link to submit a form with personal information
    • lead to money being stolen from your credit/debit card account
    • ask you to call back to a phone number that is not listed on our Phone us page.

    We will never send a text message:

    • asking for personal information including your TFN or credit card details
    • asking for you to pay a fee for a tax refund.

    If you are ever unsure about whether any communication is really from the ATO, call the ATO Scam Hotline on 1800 008 540 or visit ato.gov.au/scams.

    March 2018 phone scam – voicemail

    Scammers are leaving people voicemail messages threatening the recipients with arrest due to an unknown tax debt or suspected tax evasion. The scammers claim to be from the ATO and many threaten that a warrant for the person's arrest will be issued if they do not call the scammer back on the phone number provided.

    Below is a recording of an actual scam voicemail. If you receive a voicemail like this, do not return the call.

    If you are unsure if a phone call or voicemail is from the ATO, call 1800 008 540.

    See also:

    March 2018 email scam – tax refund review

    Scammers are sending fake ATO emails asking completion of a 'tax refund review' form to receive a refund. The form asks for online banking credentials, credit card numbers and limits, and personal address information. Do not click nor save the attachment as it may download malicious malware onto your computer. Do not disclose the personal information the form is requesting.

    Below is an example of how these emails may appear.

    An example of the March 2018 Email scam (tax refund notification). It shows the features we describe below when explaining what to look for in a scam email.

    This scam email:

    • misleadingly includes the Australian Taxation Office logo
    • does not address the recipient by name
    • is not sent from a legitimate @ato.gov.au sender
    • is unexpected
    • contains poor grammar
    • asks you to click a link that appears to be the ATO website but when hovering over the link it does not lead to an ato.gov.au address.

    All online management of your tax affairs should be carried out via your myGov account. The ATO does not have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form.

    See also:

    February 2018 email scam – tax refund notification

    Scammers are emailing people asking them to verify their billing information in order to ‘file’ their tax refund. The image below is one example format this scam can take. Do not click anywhere in the email as it contains a malicious link and will direct you to a fake ‘Tax Refund’ form in order to steal your personal information.

    Remember to always exercise caution when clicking links or opening attachments in emails.

    An example of the February 2018 Email scam (tax refund notification). It shows the features we describe below when explaining what to look for in a scam email.

    This scam email:

    • misleadingly includes the Australian Taxation Office logo
    • asks you to click a link that appears to be the ATO website but when hovering over the link it does not lead to an ato.gov.au address
    • does not include your name
    • contains poor grammar and spelling
    • is unexpected.

    All online management of your tax affairs should be carried out via your myGov account. The ATO does not have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form.

    See also:

    January 2018 phone scam – fake tax refund

    ATO impersonation scams reported by the community in January 2018 followed a similar trend to scams reported in previous months:

    Example

    Paul3 received a call on his mobile from someone introducing himself as ATO employee Ray Hamilton. He referred to Paul by his first name and advised that he was entitled to a tax refund. To receive such refund Paul was asked to provide his credit card details and confirm his address. Paul provided the information as requested and Ray sent a 6 digit code to his mobile phone to confirm their transaction. When Paul went looking on his statement for the refund he was shocked to find that money had been deducted from his credit card account. Four transactions had been made totalling $1,241.00 under the name of a fake insurance company. Paul did not have an official ATO refund due.

    3 not his real name

    End of example

    Know the status of your tax affairs. If you are aware of the details of debts owed, refunds due and lodgments outstanding, you are less likely to fall victim to a scam. You can regularly check your details via myGov or by contacting your registered tax agent.

    The most common names clients said scammers used in January were:

    • John Harris/Peterson
    • Ray Hamilton/Franklin
    • Paul Adams
    • Richard Parker
    • Jordan Jackson

    Scammers may give you a number to call them on that is not a number from our Phone us page. The top five phone numbers scammers asked people to phone them back on in January were:

    • 02 8005 6533
    • 08 7200 7074
    • 02 6100 3019
    • 07 5641 0370
    • 07 5641 0350

    Our clients are telling us they knew it was a scam because:

    • they were asking for credit card details to receive a tax refund
    • the offer seemed to be too good to be true – they were not expecting a refund from the ATO
    • they threatened to arrest me and face court action or deportation
    • they kept asking for money when I know I didn’t have a debt with the tax office
    • the scammer would not let me hang up or disconnect the phone.

    If you are unsure about a request for information or the validity of an ATO interaction, phone the ATO Scam Hotline on 1800 008 540 or visit ato.gov.au/scams.

    January 2018 email scam – tax form

    Scammers are emailing people telling them to complete an online 'tax form'. The image below is one example of the format this scam email can take. Do not click the link as it contains malware. Forward the email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au and then delete it.

    An example of the January 2018 Email scam (tax form). It shows the features we describe below when explaining what to look for in a scam email.

    This scam email:

    • is not from a legitimate @ato.gov.au sender, even though the sender may look similar
    • misleadingly includes the Australian Taxation Office logo
    • doesn't include your name
    • contains bad grammar
    • asks you to click on an active link and when hovering over it does not lead to an ato.gov.au address
    • is unexpected
    • asks you to use a non-legitimate online form.

    Remember, all online management of your tax affairs should be carried out via your myGov account.

    See also:

    December 2017 phone scam – fake debts

    ATO impersonation scams reported by the community in December 2017 showed:

    • scammers are using reference number TEXAS47623 frequently in conversations
    • payments via Bitcoin and iTunes continue to be the most popular method for scammers to get money
    • an increase in email scams focused on phishing for taxpayer credentials off sites such as webmail and online banking.

    Common names reported used by scammers:

    • Mark or David Brown
    • Paul Adams or Smith
    • Adam Peterson
    • Richard Barker or Parker
    • Eric Watson
    • Jessica Brown

    Scammers may provide you a number to call them on that is not a number from our Phone us page. Some of the most common phone numbers provided by scammers are:

    • 03 9005 7499
    • 02 6100 8340
    • 02 8003 7228
    • 02 8006 7474
    • 03 9005 7718
    • 02 8005 6533

    Other indicators to identify a scammer:

    • They will tell you a complaint has been made against you and you are committing tax fraud or claim that you have to pay a debt that you know nothing about.
    • They may threaten immediate arrest or court if you don't call them back or pay straightaway.
    • They won't provide explanations or allow you to ask questions about the debt and often get aggressive or abusive.
    • They will ask you to pay using unusual methods of payment that the ATO does not use such as iTunes, Bitcoin, store gift cards or pre-paid visa cards.
    • They may offer a tax refund but you have to provide a personal credit card number for the funds to be deposited into. They don’t deposit money but instead steal funds from these cards without the knowledge of the cardholder. The ATO does not issue refunds to credit cards.

    It's OK to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or report a scam.

    See also:

    September 2017 email scam – refund

    Scammers are emailing people to tell them to claim their tax refund online.

    An example of the September 2017 Email scam (credit card refund). It shows the features we describe below when explaining what to look for in a scam email.

    This email:

    • is not from a correct ATO email address  
      • ATOep152@ref2.case927349.review is a scammer
      • atogovau@ato.gov.com is a scammer
    • does not address you by name
    • offers you money you weren't expecting  
      • you may not have done your tax return yet
      • you may have already received your refund
    • asks you to download a form.

    Note: The following ATO email addresses are legitimate:

    • noreply@ato.gov.au
    • noreplyCAS@ato.gov.au
    • no_replySBIT@ato.gov.au

    The attached refund form contains malicious software. Forward the email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au and then delete it.

    See also:

    August 2017 scam – tax return form

    Scammers are circulating an online form claiming to be the ATO's online Tax return form. If you come across a form such as this, it is a scam.

    An example of the August 2017 Tax return form scam. It shows the features we describe below when explaining what to look for in a scam form.

    This form:

    • is on a scammer's website – it isn't on ato.gov.au and it doesn't use https
    • is called a Tax return form, but we don't have a form with that name
    • asks for your personal information such as your place and date of birth
    • asks you to lodge your tax return in a non-legitimate electronic way – we use myTax, which you accessed through myGov.

    Forward the email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au and then delete it.

    See also:

    July 2017 email scam – tax repayment

    Scammers are emailing people to tell them that they can claim a tax repayment or tax return online.

    An example of the July 2017 Tax return scam email. It shows the features we describe below when explaining what to look for in a scam email.

    This email:

    • is not from a legitimate @ato.gov.au sender
    • does not address you by name
    • contains a spelling mistake – 'ammount'
    • creates false urgency to respond
    • asks you to click a link to 'Claim online', but when you hover on the link it shows a web address that  
      • does not use HTTPS
      • uses link shortcuts ow.ly or bit.ly
    • offers a delivery method of 'Electronically by card', but we only pay refunds by cheque or into an Australian bank account.

    The download could be phishing for your private information or contain malicious software. Forward the email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au and then delete it.

    See also:

    March 2017 email scam – online activity statement

    Scammers are emailing people to tell them that they can download their online activity statement.

    An example of the March 2017 online activity scam email. It shows the features we describe below when explaining what to look for in a scam email.

    This scam email:

    • is not from a legitimate @ato.gov.au sender, even though the sender, @atogovau.org, may look similar at first
    • doesn't include your business ABN or name
    • contains bad grammar
    • asks you to click on an active link and when hovering over it does not lead to an ato.gov.au address
    • is unexpected
    • asks you to use a non-legitimate electronic method to manage your account – you can manage your activity statement online using myGov.

    Forward the email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au and then delete it.

    See also:

    Last modified: 16 Jul 2019QC 53447