The Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce: working together to outsmart scammers
More than 800,000 Australians fall victim to some form of personal fraud (scams) in any given year.
Scammers take almost 1 billion dollars from Australians every year, and on the frontline of the battle to stop this crime is the Australian Consumer Fraud Taskforce (ACFT).
The ACFT is made up of 21 government agencies, including the ATO which recently hosted a forum to discuss research, enforcement and education strategies to protect the Australian public.
The primary purpose of the ACFT is to enhance fraud and scam enforcement and awareness-raising activities. Member agencies work together to share information and to forge new partnerships in an effort to combat fraud.
What is personal fraud?
Personal fraud can be credit or bank card fraud, identity theft (including the unauthorised use of a person's personal details), and the following selected scams: lotteries, pyramid schemes, phishing and related scams, financial advice, chain letters and advance fee fraud.
Scams around tax are common, and as with other types of scams, victims will often find that their identities have been misused or sold to commit fraud.
When it comes to tax scams, the ATO takes its role seriously, not only in terms of their enforcement and compliance approach, but also in educating taxpayers.
Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D'Ascenzo said taxpayers are alerted to new tax scams the minute the ATO finds out about them.
"We do this through a range of mechanisms, for example, through the ATO website. We also work closely with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the Chair of the ACFT) to warn taxpayers through the SCAMwatchExternal Link service."
Consumer Fraud Awareness Week provides another opportunity to remind the community to remain vigilant of scams. In 2010 the focus was online scams (for example, email phishing attacks) which are on the increase. The ATO participated in the week to remind taxpayers and tax professionals how to avoid falling for increasingly sophisticated tax scams.
"As part of our involvement, we took advantage of the growing popularity of our e-tax service to send an online security reminder email to over 1 million e-tax users," Mr D'Ascenzo said.
Chairperson of the ACFT and Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Peter Kell, said "The ATO is a valued member of the ACFT and I look forward to working closely with the ATO in-to the future as we continue the fight against this type of crime."
For more information about the ACFT, visit www.scamwatch.gov.auExternal Link
To find out more about how to report and protect yourself from scams, visit www.ato.gov.au/onlinesecurity
Patrick received an email claiming to be from the ATO, stating that his income tax refund had been 'recalculated' and that he was entitled to an additional $250. All he had to do was click on a link in the email, provide some details, and he could expect the extra money in a few days.
The email looked genuine enough (it had the ATO logo on it) and he thought it was his lucky day.
He clicked on the link in the email, which took him to a website that for all purposes looked authentic. All he had to do was complete the form online, then click the print button and send the printed form to the ATO in Canberra.
What really happened? The email was a phishing attack from a scammer. The hyperlink in the email took Patrick to a phishing website, which used content from the official ATO website to add authenticity. When he clicked the 'print' button, not only did he print out the 'claim form' but he also unknowingly sent his full identity and credit card details electronically to an organised criminal syndicate in the Ukraine.
His identity was then sold on the black market. The criminal syndicate that purchased his identity used it to take out a substantial loan in his name. His credit card was used fraudulently to make $10,000 in purchases from online merchants. The syndicate also lodged a false income tax return in his name.
It is scams like these that the ATO and the ACFT work together to tackle, limiting their impact and taking preventative measures where possible.