Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said the ATO had teamed up with Australia’s telcos and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on a three-month trial of technology to block these scam calls appearing to originate from legitimate ATO phone numbers.
According to Mr Fletcher, scammers often use software to “overstamp” actual phone numbers — often an overseas number — with widely publicised ATO numbers, in what is commonly known as “spoofing”.
In 2019, the ATO received over 107,000 reports of such spoofed calls from the community.
Mr Fletcher said the trial had seen participating telcos successfully using software to identify calls which had been overstamped with the specified ATO phone numbers — and blocked them.
“This trial has been highly successful in blocking spoof calls from specified ATO numbers,” Mr Fletcher said.
“While it will not stop scammers randomly ringing Australians pretending to be from the ATO, it will stop specific ATO numbers appearing in the CLI display on the recipient’s phone, thus making the scam seem much less convincing.”
ATO scams have been a constant thorn in the community, with the latest scam revolving around the government’s JobKeeper payment.
The ATO said scammers have been pretending to be from the Tax Office and calling members of the public to provide their bank account details in order to receive the JobKeeper payments.
Tax agents have also appeared to be targeted by fraudsters in the early access to super scheme.
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar praised the trial but urged Australians to remain vigilant to scammers.
“Australians should continue to be vigilant about calls allegedly from the ATO and other organisations in which the caller claims that money is owed or attempts to gain access to personal information,” Mr Sukkar said.
“If in doubt about a call, hang up and ring the organisation directly by finding them through a trusted source, such as a past bill or online search. If you are not sure that an ATO interaction is genuine, don’t reply to it and phone 1800 008 540.”
Jotham Lian is the 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.