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Robo-call scams pick up speed this tax time

A number of robo-call scams have been doing the rounds in the community this tax time, with the ATO reinforcing that it will never send unsolicited pre-recorded messages or threaten immediate arrest.

Business Jotham Lian 19 August 2019
— 1 minute read

Accountants Daily has received a number of anonymous tip-offs regarding clients receiving robo-call scams impersonating the ATO and threatening them with legal action due to “incorrect tax fillings”.

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In response, the Tax Office said it commonly sees a spike in scammers during tax time and has seen a particular rise in ATO impersonation scams over the past year.

“We see ATO impersonation scams by phone, email and SMS, with the most commonly reported scam being a phone call claiming that there are outstanding tax debts and threatening people with arrest if the debt is not paid immediately,” an ATO spokesperson told Accountants Daily.

“We also know of scammers who send unsolicited pre-recorded messages (robo-calls) to people’s phones. These will be delivered when they answer the call or may be left on your voicemail. They often ask people to return the call as the act of responding to robo-calls gives the scammers increased certainty of speaking to someone who believed the message.

“We advise people that we will never send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to their phone and to only ever call back on an independently sourced number, not the one provided to you or in your call log.”

Another relatively recent scam involves the use of messaging platform WhatsApp, where scammers impersonate the ATO and ask call recipients to send a photo of their driver’s licence, passport or other identity credentials via WhatsApp. 

The ATO confirms it does not have a profile on WhatsApp and will never engage with taxpayers on this platform.

Accountants should reassure clients who have been contacted by scammers that the ATO will never use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation; request payment of a debt via iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account; or send an email or SMS requesting you click on a hyperlink to log on to government services.

The latest alert comes as the Australian Consumer and Competition Commissioner projects scam losses to exceed $532 million by the end of the year, surpassing half a billion dollars for the first time.

Last year, over $489 million was lost to scammers, with ATO impersonation scams contributing to over $2.8 million in losses.

ATO impersonation scams reported in 2018 totalled 114,625, with over 21,000 potentially compromised personal identities. In the first quarter of 2019, the ATO received 40,225 reports of impersonation scams with just over $1 million in losses.

Robo-call scams pick up speed this tax time
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Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian is the news editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.

Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.

You can email Jotham at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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