• Verify or report a scam

    You should be wary of emails, faxes, SMS and phone calls claiming to be from the ATO.

    These could be scams designed to trick you into paying money or providing personal information.

    Once they have your information, scammers may use it to:

    • access your bank accounts
    • take out loans in your name
    • lodge false tax returns or BAS statements
    • claim Centrelink or other benefits.

    How to report a scam

    If you think you are a victim of a tax-related scam, phone us on 1800 008 540 (8.00am–6.00pm, Monday–Friday). You should do this as soon as possible.

    If you receive a suspicious email claiming to be from the ATO, do not click on any links, open attachments or respond to the sender. Forward the entire email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au without changing or adding any additional information and delete from your inbox and sent folder.

    If you wish to report a scam outside ATO working hours, you can do so via ScamwatchExternal Link. If you have been impacted by cybercrime you can report this through the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORNExternal Link).

    You should also contact your bank or financial institution if you think a scammer has your credit card details.

    The ATO will never:

    • threaten you with immediate arrest
    • ask you to pay money to receive a refund or payment from us
    • ask you to pay a debt via iTunes vouchers, or pre-paid credit card or store gift cards
    • ask you to provide personal information, such as your tax file number (TFN) or credit card number, via email or SMS
    • ask you to pay money into a personal bank account
    • direct you to download files from the internet, or open attachments in unsolicited emails.

    Visit How to pay for legitimate payment methods when dealing with us.

    Find out about:

    See also:

    Phone scams

    From time to time we may contact you by phone. But you should be wary of unsolicited phone calls claiming to be from the ATO. These may offer you a tax refund or tell you that you have a tax debt and threaten you with arrest.

    We are now seeing these scams using the names and addresses of actual ATO officers and buildings. Be careful if you receive a phone call like this.

    If you are in doubt about the authenticity of a call that you receive claiming to be from the ATO, you can call us on 1800 008 540 to verify.

    Example phone scams

    Below are examples of recent phone scams.

    Example 1: Phone scam – tax fraud

    You receive a call or voice message from a person saying they are from the ATO. They advise that you have committed tax fraud and as a result, now have a tax debt. They tell you there is a warrant for your immediate arrest unless you arrange for immediate payment.

    The scammer tells you to buy iTunes cards, a pre-paid visa card, or department store gift cards as a form of payment. They may also request you pay funds into a personal bank account.

    End of example

    Key indicators of this scam are:

    • you are threatened with immediate arrest
    • the caller uses an aggressive tone
    • you are asked to pay via non-legitimate payment methods such as iTunes gift cards (see How to pay for legitimate payment methods)

    To verify if you have a debt with the ATO you can:

    • log in to your myGov account to check your account balance or your notice of assessment
    • call your registered tax agent or advisor
    • call us on 13 11 42 (8.00am–6.00pm, Monday–Friday).

    Example 2: Phone scam – retirement plan

    You receive a call from a person saying they are from the ATO. They say a letter has been sent to advise you of this phone call, and that the call is to discuss a scheme to reduce your tax for retirement.

    They say someone will visit you to discuss your situation. Then they ask about your occupation, your assets or whether you have a financial planner or accountant. They may already know your address.

    They do not provide contact information or a reference number.

    End of example

    Key indicators of this scam are:

    • an unsolicited phone call
    • the caller may be pushy to book an appointment, and tell you there are ATO representatives in your neighbourhood now
    • the caller asks about your financial situation and other personal information that can be used to steal your identity
    • the caller advises of 'schemes' to help reduce your tax and offers to provide financial advice.

    Example 3: Phone scam – grant

    You receive a call from a person saying they are from the ATO. They say you have been chosen to receive a business grant from the federal government (the amount can vary). You are told you need to phone a specific number straight away to organise the process to collect the grant.

    End of example

    Key indicators of this scam are:

    • an unsolicited phone call
    • the caller advises that you have been chosen for a business grant
    • you are asked to phone to organise the collection of the grant
    • you are asked for personal information, or to pay an amount to have the money released
    • the caller provides details which may be similar to actual ATO officer details or addresses. The street name may be spelt wrong, or the wrong postcode is provided.

    Example 4: Phone scam – tax refund

    You receive a call from a person saying they are from the ATO. They say you have a tax refund and that you need to make a money transfer to pay for the 'taxes' to release this refund.

    Generally, they will provide a phone number to contact the 'ATO' once you have completed the transfer. The scammers sometimes quote personal information such as your address and date of birth. To show authenticity, they may also quote several private contact numbers for you.

    End of example

    Key indicators of this scam are:

    • an unsolicited phone call
    • the caller advises that you have an unclaimed refund
    • you are asked to pay money to a third party to receive the refund
    • the payment must be made through a money transfer, often into a personal bank account.

    Email scams

    These emails claim to come from the ATO and usually offer a tax refund. Generally, they link to a fake ATO website asking for personal and credit card details or prompt you to open or download a file that will install a virus on your computer.

    These emails can differ in appearance and level of sophistication. They generally state that you are eligible for a refund and tell you to click on a link or open an attachment to submit a form in order to receive it.

    If you receive a scam email like this, do not attempt to open the attachment or download any files, as these may attempt to install a virus on your computer.

    If you receive a suspicious email claiming to be from the ATO, do not click on any links, open attachments or respond to the sender. Forward the entire email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au without changing or adding any additional information and delete from you inbox and sent folder.

    Note: We do not respond individually to any emails sent to this address.

    Below are examples of hoax emails. We’ve highlighted the aspects that identify them as a scam.

    See also:

    Example email scams

    Below are examples of recent email scams.

    Example 1

    The scam email shown below has been sent to clients in an attempt to prompt them to provide information. Even though it appears to be from the ATO, and uses our recent letterhead, it is a scam.

    Action is required

    Key Indicators that it is a scam include:

    • the email not being personalised
    • poor grammar
    • links in the email - you should never click on a link in an email unless you are sure of the source.

    You can confirm the real destination of a link by hovering your mouse over the link or on your phone by holding your finger down on the link. All ATO domains include http://www.ato.gov.au.

    End of example

     

    Example 2

    The email shown below has been sent to clients. It includes the ATO letterhead and appears to be legitimate.

    CR_40945_scamalert

    Key indicators that it is a scam are:

    • the email address is from @atogovau.org – all of the ATO's email and domains include ato.gov.au
    • it requests you to click on an active link – you should only click on a hyperlink when you know the source of the email, and you are expecting the information to be sent to you.
    End of example

     

    Example 3

    This email looks legitimate but it includes an attachment. If you open the attachment, it installs malicious software on your computer. It blocks you from accessing your files until you pay a ransom.

    CR_40945_pleasereadactionrequired(1)

    The key indicators of this scam are that the email:

    • asks for personal identification documents to 'verify your identity'
    • requests you open an attachment that is embedded within the email
    • provides an active hyperlink to click on.

    The ATO will not send you unsolicited email with attachments. If you receive anything similar to this email example, forward them to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au and delete the email immediately.

    End of example

     

    Example 4

    This email claims to be 'on behalf of the Australian Taxation Office', but it is actually sent from another account. It also uses the myGov and ATO logos to add authenticity to the scam.

    Example

    The key indicators of this scam are that the email:

    • comes from a non ato.gov.au email address
    • states that you are eligible for a large unexpected refund
    • links to a form which will ask you to complete personal information – such as your date of birth and credit card details.
    End of example

     

    Example 5

    This email comes from an invalid email address – ato.com.au.

    The embedded link in the email takes the user to the website in Example 6. These links generally contain malicious software. Do not click on them. Forward the entire email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au and delete the email immediately.

    Phishing email sent from invalid email address: ato.com.au

    End of example

     

    Example 6

    This website looks like the ATO's website. But if you look at the address bar, it is not our website's url.

    Fake ATO website. Address bar shows URL is not ATO.

    End of example

     

    Example 7

    This email looks to have come from a valid ato.gov.au domain, but is actually a 'spoofed' email address, This is an email message created with a forged sender address.

    Scam email appearing to come from ATO.

    The key indicators of this scam are that the email:

    • does not address you by name
    • states that you are eligible for a large unexpected refund
    • advises that a refund will be paid into a credit card account (we only pay refunds by cheque or into an Australian bank account)
    • asks you to complete a form with personal information.
    End of example

     

    Example 8

    This example is quite sophisticated – it copies the look and feel of our online services.

    Phishing web page that mimics ATO online services.

    The key indicators of this scam are:

    • the request to provide personal information, such as your driver's licence details and mother's maiden name
    • it asks that you provide your credit card details, including CVN
    • the form lives on a website not hosted by the ATO.
    End of example

    SMS scams

    SMS scams will generally claim you are eligible for a refund and instruct you to click on a link to submit a form to receive it.

    They usually link to a fake ATO website asking for personal information and credit card details. Under no circumstances should you provide these details.

    By clicking the link or filling in the details you expose yourself to identity theft.

    Scams that come to you on your mobile device can be difficult to recognise. You should be wary of unsolicited texts or messages claiming to be from the ATO.

    We may send you an SMS. But we will never message you to ask for personal or credit card details.

    If you doubt the authenticity of a message that you receive claiming to be from the ATO, you can call us on 1800 008 540 to verify.

    See also:

    Other scams

    Door-to-door scams

    When someone knocks on your door offering gifts or a tax refund in exchange for your TFN or personal information, do not provide your details.

    We are aware of scammers who will knock on your door and offer free education. If you sign up straight away, they will also give you a free laptop. All you need to do is supply your TFN and other personal identification.

    You do not need to provide your TFN to an educational institution until you apply for HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP.

    See also:

    Employment scams

    You don't need to provide your TFN when applying for a job advertised online. You only need to supply your TFN after you have started employment. You should always use the TFN declaration form to do this.

    Job ads requiring your TFN up-front are generally a scam to steal your personal and financial information. We have seen them in emails, and on noticeboards, social media and job recruitment websites.

    Last modified: 07 Feb 2017QC 40945