More than 40,000 people contacted in 2019 so far
According to assistant commissioner Gavin Siebert, scammers are using “Robocall” technology to issue pre-recorded phone calls that impersonate legitimate phone numbers of the ATO.
While the Tax Office issued an alert about the phone scam last year, and another in February this year about “spoofing” or impersonating phone numbers being used in text messages, it warned that “unprecedented numbers” of such calls are still continuing.
“We are now seeing thousands of Australians missing a call from a scammer, returning the call based on the number on caller ID and speaking to legitimate members of the ATO,” Mr Siebert said.
“If the scammers do make contact, they will request payment of a tax debt — usually through unusual methods like bitcoin, gift cards and vouchers… The scammers will threaten you with immediate arrest, attempt to keep you on the line until payment is made and may become rude or aggressive.”
He said that the ATO has received 40,255 reports of impersonation scams in just the first three months of 2019, with losses nudging over $1 million.
What to look out for
“Taxpayers should be wary of any unexpected phone call, text message or email claiming to be from the Tax Office,” Mr Siebert said.
“While we may contact you in these ways, if it doesn’t seem right, independently find our phone number and check if the contact was legitimate.”
There are some tell-tale signs that a call is a hoax, despite the incoming phone number — or email address — appearing to be a legitimate one.
“Our calls do not show a number on caller ID nor do we use pre-recorded messages,” Mr Siebert said.
“[Also,] legitimate ways to pay your tax debt are listed on our website.”
Other things to look out for, which he said the ATO will not do, include:
- Sending emails or SMS messages asking you to click on a link to a log-in page.
- Requesting payment of a fee to release a tax refund.
- Demanding payment of a tax debt in the form of direct credit to a personal bank account, cryptocurrency or pre-paid Visa cards, Google Play cards or via iTunes.
- Being aggressive or rude, or threatening arrest, jail or deportation.
“If you receive a pre-recorded message claiming to be from [the ATO], either hang up or simply delete the voicemail,” Mr Siebert said.