ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foat said the agency has been following the development of a new scam that sends SMS messages under the guise of a phone number that appears to be sent from the Tax Office.
The tactic, known as “spoofing”, is a common technique used by scammers in an attempt to make their interactions with taxpayers appear legitimate.
The new scam is a carryover from reports in 2018 where scammers “spoofed” phone calls in a bid to trick taxpayers.
“We are seeing the emergence of a new scam, where scammers are using an ATO number to send fraudulent SMS messages to taxpayers asking them to click on a link and hand over their personal details in order to obtain a refund,” said Ms Foat.
“This scam is not just targeting your money, but is after your personal information in an attempt to steal your identity.
“Taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message, email or letter about a tax refund or debt, especially if you weren’t expecting it.”
Ms Foat said that while the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers via phone calls, emails, and SMS, there were some key tell-tale signs that differentiated them from scammers.
For example, the ATO would never send taxpayers an email or SMS asking them to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment.
Further, the Tax Office will not use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation, nor request payment of a debt via iTunes or Google Play cards, prepaid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account.
It will also not request a fee in order to release a refund owed to a taxpayer.
“The community plays an important role in stopping scammer activities by reporting them to our scam line. Your reports help us to get an accurate picture of what is happening with the current scams, which ultimately helps protect the Australian community,” said Ms Foat.
Late last year, the ATO issued a high alert after more than $800,000 was reportedly lost during November due to a spike in scam phone calls.
The Tax Practitioners Board has also warned of a new scam call impersonating the regulatory body, as scammers continue to develop new tactics.
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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.