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  • Verify or report a scam

    Scams trick you into paying money or giving out your personal information.

    This information about scams is also available in an Easy Read format.

    COVID-19 scams

    We’re aware of a significant increase in Australians being targeted with COVID-19 scams, fraud attempts and deceptive email and SMS schemes.

    The ATO will communicate with you via SMS and email if you have applied for the JobKeeper payment, or early release of superannuation. However, if you’re unsure whether an ATO interaction is genuine, do not reply. If you receive an SMS or email claiming to be from us, check with us first to confirm it's genuine.

    We're working with other government agencies to combat COVID-themed scams and minimise harm to the community.

    During this time of heightened scam activity, individuals and businesses are encouraged to:

    • run the latest software updates to ensure operating systems security is current
    • update antivirus software
    • always exercise caution when clicking on links and providing personal identifying information.
    • always avoid accessing online government services via a hyperlink in an email or SMS – only via an independent search
    • call us on an independently sourced number to verify an interaction if in doubt
    • educate staff on scam awareness.

    Reporting ATO impersonation scams

    If you've been affected by an ATO impersonation scam you can report it to us in various ways.

    Phone scams

    • If you or someone you know has paid or provided sensitive personal identifying information to a scammer, phone us on 1800 008 540 to report.
    • If you receive a scam phone call or SMS, and haven't paid or provided sensitive personal identifying information to the scammer, you can report the scam via the online form Report a scam.

    Email and SMS scams

    If you receive a suspicious email or text message (SMS) claiming to be from us:

    Don't click on a link, open an attachment or download a file.

    Verifying ATO contact

    If you're ever unsure whether an ATO interaction is genuine, do not reply. You should phone us on 1800 008 540.

    On this page:

    Who else to notify

    If you've made a payment to an ATO impersonation scammer, make an official report to your local police.

    If you've given your credit card or bank details to someone who shouldn't have them, contact your bank or financial institution.

    If you've paid money into a scammer bank account contact that bank and lodge a fraud report.

    See also:

    Scamming methods

    It's becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between legitimate ATO interactions and those of the scammers. There are some tell-tale signs outlined below to help you verify that you’re dealing with the legitimate ATO.

    The scamming methods listed below mimic the ATO and attempt to steal your personal identifying information or money.

    Phone scams

    The following table lists some of the common features of phone scams. It will help you to identify and respond appropriately to a phone scam.

    How to identify and respond to phone scams

    What scammers may do

    Our approach at the ATO and what you can do

    Scammers may threaten you with immediate arrest. They do this to create a sense of urgency and instil a fear response.  

    We will never threaten you with immediate arrest.

    Scammers may send unsolicited pre-recorded messages (robocalls) to your phone. These will be delivered when you answer the call or may be left on your voicemail.

    They often ask you to return the call. Responding to a robocall gives the scammer increased certainty that they are speaking to someone who believed their message.  

    We will never send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to your phone.

    Make sure you only call back on an independently sourced number not the one provided to you or in your call log.

    Scammers may use technology to project legitimate numbers onto the caller ID on your call log. This may include legitimate ATO numbers. They do this to make you think the call originates from an Australian number.

    Calls originating from the ATO do not show a number on caller ID.

    Make sure you only ever call back on an independently sourced number, not one shown on caller ID or in your call log.

    Scammers may demand immediate payment and keep you on the phone line until you pay.

    They may advise that hanging up will trigger the arrest warrant. This is done to ensure payment is made by the end of the call. 

    We will never insist you stay on the line until a payment is made.

    Scammers may refuse to allow you to speak with a trusted advisor or your regular tax agent.

    They do this to prevent anyone from telling you that it’s a scam and interrupting the payment.

    We will never prevent you from discussing your tax affairs with your agent or trusted advisor.

    Scammers may attempt to make a conference call with a fake tax professional, law enforcement officer or another official.

    This is done to add legitimacy to the call and increase the fear response. The second person dialled in is another scammer.  

    We will never make a conference call with a third party such as your tax agent or law enforcement.

    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.

    Scammers may request payment by iTunes, Google Play, STEAM or other vouchers.

    These vouchers can be easily purchased and sold globally and are an untraceable form of currency.

    We will never request payment of a debt via iTunes, Google Play cards or other vouchers.

    For legitimate ways to pay your tax debt, see How to pay.

    Scammers may request payment by Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency, either directly or deposited into an ATM.

    This currency is difficult to trace and offers a degree of anonymity.  

    We do not accept payment in cryptocurrency.

    Scammers may request that you pay money into a personal bank account. Australian-based accounts are established by money mules. The money moves accounts until it eventually is sent offshore.  

    We will never ask you to pay your tax debt into a bank account not held by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Check the Bank-State-Branch (BSB) number.

    Scammers may request that you pay via cardless cash transfer.

    We will never ask you to pay your tax debt via a cardless cash transfer.

    Scammers may request you pay money via offshore wire transfer (where the scammers are located).  

    We will not request payment of a debt via offshore wire transfer.

    Scammers may request that you pay a fee to receive a refund, usually by credit card.

    Credit card information is often stolen.  

    We will never ask you to pay a fee in order to receive a refund.

    Do not provide your credit card details to anyone unless you trust the person you’re dealing with and they genuinely require these details.

    Scammers may offer payment arrangements if you can’t pay the full amount.

    This is done to increase instances of payments and the total amount paid.  

    Contact us or your tax agent via an independently sourced number before entering into a payment arrangement.

    Emails and SMS scams

    The following table lists some common features of email and SMS scams. It will help you to identify and respond appropriately to them.

    How to identify and respond to email or SMS scams

    What scammers may do

    Our approach at the ATO and what you can do

    Scammers may ask you to provide your personal identifying and financial institution details via a return SMS or email in order to receive a refund.  

    We may use SMS or email to ask you to contact us, but we will never ask you to provide personal identifying information via these methods in order to receive a refund. 

    Don’t give out your tax file number (TFN), date of birth or bank details unless you trust the person you’re dealing with and they genuinely require these details.

    Scammers may request that you click on a link in an SMS or email, to log on to an online service.

    Scammers create fake log on pages that look legitimate. They use these sites to keep legitimate credentials (user names and passwords) for future misuse.  

    We will never send you an email or SMS with a hyperlink directing you to a log on page for our online services.

    Scammers may ask you to click on a link in a SMS or email to download forms or attachments.

    They do this to install malicious software on your computer to gain access to your data, or to keep your personal identifying or financial information for future misuse.  

    Always use caution when downloading attachments or clicking links in emails, SMS or social media posts, even if they appear to come from someone you know.

    Scammers may create fake social media accounts and send requests for personal identifying information or money.  

    We are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but we will never use these social media platforms to ask you for payment or personal identifiable information.

    We will never interact with you via Whatsapp.

    Note: Never share your TFN, myGov or bank account details, or other sensitive personal identifying information on social media.

    See also:

    Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra. 

    Last modified: 24 Apr 2020QC 40945