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  • March 2020 ATO impersonation scam report

    In March 2020:

    • 563 scam reports were recorded via our dedicated phone line
    • we received 805 online scam reports
    • 826 phishing scam emails were reported to
    • $39,743 was reported as being paid to scammers
      • Bank transfers recorded the highest amount paid $15,380
      • Cardless cash netted scammers $4,500
      • Bitcoin accounted for $7,500
    • 109 clients provided scammers with sensitive personal identifying information (PII) in March. When a client advises they have provided sensitive PII, we assess potential consequences and apply protective measures to secure their taxation and superannuation accounts where appropriate.

    See also:

    Monthly comparison

    Figure 1: Monthly comparison of reported ATO impersonation scams

     Chart 1 shows a comparison between email, phone and online reports received each month to date in 2019 and 2020  
Number of emails reported: 
April 669; May 1.279; June 498; July 475; August 523; September 525; October 1,769; November 1,241; December 410; 2020 January 2,114; February 917; March 902
Number of phone calls reported: April 8,342; May 6,771; June 6,444; July 6,645; August 6,510; September 4,059; October 828; November 723; December 418; 2020 January 483; February 542; March 563
Number of online reports received: 
July 6,179; August 5,080; September 3,620; October 750; November 635; December 327; 2020 January 610; February 768; March 805

    Delivery methods

    Figure 2: Reported ATO impersonation scammer delivery methods, March 2020

    Chart 2 shows a comparison between the most popular channels scammers used to contact people in February 2020. Of those, reported phone calls or voice messages accounted for 54%, email accounted for 24%, and text message accounted for 18%.

    Payment methods

    Figure 3: ATO impersonation scammer payment methods, March 2020

    Chart 3 shows the total amount paid, method of payment and number of people who paid scammers in January 2020.
4 paid $15,380 via Bank transfer
5 paid $4,500 via Cardless cash
1 paid $1,863 via Credit card
1 paid $1,800 via Western Union
1 paid $1,600 via iTunes
2 paid $700 via Google Play
1 paid $7,500 via Bitcoin
2 paid $6,400 via method not specifiedSee also:

    • How to pay for legitimate ways to pay your tax debt

    What we're doing

    We are aware of the many COVID-19-themed scams and schemes within the community. These are designed to take advantage of your feelings of fear and uncertainty in these trying times. The ATO is working closely with other agencies to protect the community and is constantly checking both national and international intelligence so we can identify new and emerging threats which could target vulnerable Australians.

    Remember, we will never:

    • use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation
    • project our number onto your caller ID, so people can be sure that if there’s a number on their caller ID, it’s not the ATO calling
    • request payment of a debt via cardless cash, iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency, or direct credit to a personal bank account
    • send an email or SMS requesting that you click on a hyperlink to log on to government services
    • ask you to provide personal identifying information by return SMS or email to receive a refund from us.

    If you receive a call, an email or an SMS and are not sure, it's OK to hang up or not respond. Instead, you can phone our dedicated scam line 1800 008 540 to check if it was legitimate. You can also report a scam online at a scam.

    See also:

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      Last modified: 05 May 2020QC 62510