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Government issues alert as tax-scam calls spike

At least 200 scam calls impersonating the Tax Office were made this week, as scammers continue to demand money by threatening arrest.

Business Jotham Lian 12 February 2021
— 1 minute read

The government’s Scamwatch put out the alert on Twitter on Wednesday, warning that it had received a spike in reports of ATO scams.


“Yesterday we received almost 200 reports of recorded or live cold calls claiming an issue with the victim’s tax return or TFN,” Scamwatch said.

“The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest or send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to your phone.”

Scam calls have been increasingly common, with Australians losing $36 million to scams in 2020.

Tax scams impersonating the ATO and other government agencies including Services Australia and the Department of Legal Services form a significant portion of all scams, with pre-recorded or automated messages on the rise.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has now established new rules that require telcos to detect, trace and block scam calls.

Spoofed calls, which appear to originate from legitimate ATO phone numbers, have also been an ongoing issue, with the Tax Office revealing that it had received reports of over 107,000 of such spoofed calls in the community in 2019.

Scamwatch, which is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), notes that ATO scams are usually designed to demand for payment of an outstanding tax debt, with threats of arrest or legal action if the victim does not comply.

Late last year, a 42-year-old Sydney woman fell prey to one such tax scam, losing $22,000 to a scammer posing as a police officer in a shopping centre carpark.

ATO advice

The ATO has provided some helpful tips for taxpayers, noting that they will never:

  • Threaten them with immediate arrest, jail or deportation.
  • Request payment of a debt via iTunes, Google Play cards or other vouchers.
  • Insist they stay on the phone until a payment is made.
  • Prevent them from discussing their tax affairs with you.
Government issues alert as tax-scam calls spike
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Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian

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.

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