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  • Verify or report a scam

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

    On this page, learn how to verify or report an ATO impersonation scam and get to know some of the warning signs of phone, email and SMS tax scams.

    You can report an ATO scam by phone or by using the online form on our website or ATO app.

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

    Find out about:

    Reporting ATO impersonation scams

    Scammers often pretend to be from trusted organisations like the ATO.

    If you've been affected by an ATO impersonation scam you can report it to us by following the instructions below.

    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 it.
    • If you receive a scam phone call or SMS, and you haven't paid or provided sensitive personal identifying information to the scammer – report the scam using our online form Report a scam. You can also report the scam via the online form in the Contact us section of the ATO app.

    Email and SMS scams

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

    Then delete the email or text.

    Do not click on a link, open an attachment or download a file.

    Who else to notify

    You may also need to notify the police or your financial institution:

    • 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:

    Verifying ATO contacts

    We will sometimes use phone, email and SMS to get in touch with you. But if you're ever unsure whether an ATO interaction is genuine, do not reply. You should phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if it is really from us.

    Scamming methods

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

    The scamming methods listed below mimic us. They attempt to steal your personal identifying information or money.

    Phone scams

    Some of the common features of phone scams are in the table below. They will help you 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 to make you afraid.  

    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. Messages may also be left on your voicemail. They often ask you to return the call.

    Responding to a robocall makes the scammer more confident that you believed the fake 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 phone call log. This may include real ATO numbers. They do this to make you think the call is 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. Don't phone a number 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 say that hanging up will trigger an arrest warrant. This threat is to make you pay 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 stopping you paying.  

    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.

    They do this to add legitimacy to the call and increase your fear. But 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. You can also 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. They 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 more 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 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 you enter 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 your credentials (usernames 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 may do this to install malicious software on your computer to gain access to your data. Or they may 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. They 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.

    COVID-19 scams

    We’re aware of Australians being targeted with COVID-19 scams.

    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 access these sites by doing a search yourself
    • phone us on an independently sourced number to verify an interaction if you are in doubt
    • educate staff on scam awareness.

    See also:

    Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra. 

    Last modified: 05 Nov 2020QC 40945