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  • Beware bitcoin tax scammers

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning the public to beware of scammers impersonating the ATO and demanding Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency as a form of payment for fake tax debts.

    Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said that recent reports to the ATO had identified fraudsters pioneering this new payment method when defrauding taxpayers in late 2017.

    “We became aware of scammers seeking payment in Bitcoin last year. So far we have seen over $50,000 paid in Bitcoin to scammers claiming fake ATO tax debts,” Ms Anderson said.

    “Cryptocurrency operates in a virtual world, and once the scammers receive payment, it’s virtually impossible to get it back.”

    “Scammers are constantly adapting their methods to maximise their chances of picking your pocket. Unfortunately it was inevitable that scammers would target cryptocurrency given its current popularity and anonymity.”

    While the ATO is concerned about scammers moving to adopt cryptocurrencies, taxpayers should remain vigilant for other versions of the fake tax debt scam. Scams demanding direct deposits into third-party bank accounts, demanding payment via iTunes cards or with a pre-paid Visa gift cards remain the most frequently reported to the ATO.

    “In 2017, the ATO received over 80,000 reports of scams, with taxpayers reporting almost $2.4 million lost to scammers claiming to be from the ATO,” Ms Anderson said.

    “Over $900,000 worth of iTunes gift cards were reportedly paid to scammers – by almost one third of all victims. We are hoping that the new warnings Apple is including on their gift cards will help people realise the ATO doesn’t accept payment in iTunes cards.”

    “Even more concerning at the moment is that more than half of all losses are a result of scammers convincing taxpayers to make deposits or transfers directly into third-party bank accounts. Roughly $1.2 million was reported lost in this way in 2017.”

    Ms Anderson said the ATO was also concerned about taxpayers being tricked into sharing personal information such as their Tax File Number with scammers.

    “Remember, your personal information is like the keys to your identity – guard it carefully. And if you think you’ve been scammed or would like to confirm the legitimacy of an ATO call or letter, phone us on 1800 008 540.”

    “If you receive a phone call out of the blue, threatening police or legal action if you don’t pay a debt, or the person calling you is rude and aggressive, hang up, it won’t be the ATO. Any call-back number provided should be checked via an independent internet search to ensure you are calling the ATO.”

    Information on legitimate ATO payment methods is available at: How to pay

    For more information about how to report a scam visit: How to verify or report a scam

    Five simple ways to protect your family and friends from identity crimes

    Know what to protect

    Personal information that could be used by scammers to impersonate someone can include their full name, date of birth, current address, bank account numbers, credit card details, tax file number, drivers licence or passport details, and any passwords.

    Remind them to keep their personal information safe and secure

    If personal information is stolen it can be very difficult to get back. It’s best to store things like a tax file number or birth certificate somewhere safe and secure – for example, don’t carry it around in a wallet or handbag or saved on a phone.

    Warn them if they share too much on social media

    Scammers can use information published on social networking sites to steal identities. If you see someone sharing personal information online, remind them that they could be putting themselves at risk of targeted attacks. It’s also a good idea to make sure profiles are set to private, and to be cautious about which friend requests to accept.

    Be suspicious of requests for personal information

    If you notice that your family and friends have received a request for their personal information, tell them to treat the request with caution. Scammers can be believable and will sometimes quote personal information to sound authentic, so if you hear that someone is asking for personal information, consider the possibility that it may be a scam. To check if a call, email, SMS is from the ATO call us on 1800 008 540 to confirm.

    Know legitimate ways to make payments

    Scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying false debts in pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, we have a list which can found on our website that outlines methods when dealing with us, visit ato.gov.au/howtopay.

    Last modified: 14 Mar 2018QC 54786