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Tax Scams Turn To Threats

Delia Rickard
15th October, 2015

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has re-issued warnings about tax scams following reports of threatening and persistent phone calls which claim that failure to immediately settle a tax debt could result in arrest or jail time.

This year alone, the ACCC has received more than 3,800 complaints about the scams which falsely claim that money is owed to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The phone scam is responsible for the bulk of the $420,000 reported lost to tax related scams up to July in 2015.

The good news is that the vast majority of people reporting the scam to the ACCC have not lost money after recognising the danger signs.

The ATO makes thousands of outbound calls to taxpayers a week, but would never threaten jail or arrest if you cannot pay when contacted.

It is important to know that the ATO may send an SMS or letter to remind you that a payment was due. If they don’t get a response then they would call to discuss payment.

The ATO advises that if you receive a call from the ATO and are concerned about providing personal information over the phone, you should ask for the caller’s name and call them back through the ATO’s switchboard on 13 28 69.

Based on reports to the ACCC over a number of years, we know that tax scams play out in one of three ways:

Tax refund scams – these scams involve the scammer telling you that you have overpaid your tax and are now entitled to a tax refund. In order to receive the refund, the scammer claims that you will first need to pay an ‘administration’ or ‘transfer’ fee via money transfer. They may also ask for your financial details, claiming it is required to complete the transaction.

Tax owed scams – scammers will claim that you have underpaid your tax and are now required to repay the tax debt immediately. They may request your credit card details or ask you to pay the outstanding amount via a money transfer. In the current version, the scammer will make threats about taking court action or issuing an arrest warrant for unpaid debts.

Phishing emails – scammers will often try to steal your identity or money by sending you an email that pretends to be from a trusted entity such as the ATO. The scammer will ‘fish’ for your personal details by trying to get you to fill in a form, or click on a link that will allow them to infect your computer with viruses and malware.

The ACCC has re-published warnings and advice for consumers on the Scamwatch website

Delia Rickard
Deputy Chair
Australian Competition and Consumer Commision

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