• Tax time is prime time for scams

    The ATO is reminding Australians to be on the lookout for tax-related scams during tax time.

    Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte said scammers are particularly active during tax time because of the large number of people lodging their tax returns.

    “In the last couple of years, not only have we seen a significant increase in the number of scams reported to us but also the different types of approaches used by fraudsters,” Mr Whyte said.

    In 2015 almost 87,000 phone and email scams were reported to the ATO, an increase of over 90 per cent from 2014.

    From January to May this year, the ATO has received over 40,500 phone scam reports. Of these, 226 Australians handed over $1.2 million to fraudsters and over 1900 gave out some form of personal information, including tax file numbers.

    Mr Whyte said that while most people were able to identify scams, it is important to remain alert during tax time.

    “Most Australians are pretty good at catching fraudsters in the act. This is clear from the amount of scams reported to us compared to the number of people handing over money and personal information,” Mr Whyte said.

    “We encourage people to continue to be vigilant and to protect their personal information by keeping it private.”

    Mr Whyte said that although the ATO makes thousands of outbound calls to taxpayers a week, there are some key differences between a legitimate call from the ATO and a call from a potential scammer.

    “We would never cold call you about a debt; we would never threaten jail or arrest, and our staff certainly wouldn’t behave in an aggressive manner. If you’re not sure, hang up and call us back on 1800 008 540,” Mr Whyte said.

    “Lately, we have been receiving reports of a variation of this aggressive tax debt scam, where callers impersonating ATO officers demand payment via iTunes gift cards and pre-paid Visa gift cards purchased from supermarkets and department stores.

    “We will never request the payment of a tax debt via gift or pre-paid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards. Nor will we ask for direct credit to be paid to a personal bank account.”

    Mr Whyte said while the ATO does communicate with people via bulk email, it would never request personal details, such as banking information. If such personal details were required, you would be redirected to ATO Online services.

    If you think you have been contacted by a fraudster or have fallen victim to a phone scam, contact the ATO on 1800 008 540.

    For information on how to verify or report a scam, visit: How to verify or report a scam.

    For updates on the latest scams visit ScamwatchExternal Link.

    Last modified: 14 Jul 2016QC 49637