The latest ATO scam reports show that 622 taxpayers had paid over $2.1 million to scammers pretending to be from the Tax Office this year alone.
That amount was matched in just three months from November 2018 to January 2019, leading the ATO to issue a high alert.
ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foat is wary of yet another spike in scams this year-end, warning that scammers often exploit key dates to make their threats more believable.
“I’m particularly concerned about the sophistication these scammers keep showing. They are getting better at impersonating large organisations and ramp up in periods where people expect to hear from us, to make their threats appear more legitimate,” Ms Foat said.
“While some taxpayers will have tax payments due from November, the ATO will always let you know how much you owe and the due date when we send your notice of assessment.
“If you’re unsure, you can check if you have a legitimate debt anytime by logging into your myGov account, or by contacting us or your tax agent.”
Ms Foat also warned of the lengths scammers would go to in order to dupe taxpayers, deploying a wide variety of methods at their disposal.
“We see these ATO impersonation scams by phone, email, SMS and even through message apps such as WhatsApp,” Ms Foat said.
“We’ve also recently spotted scammers using the cardless cash feature offered by many banks. Through this feature, victims are sent codes to withdraw cash from an ATM, which they then read out to the scammer.”
She added: “One Sydneysider was duped out of $500 through this tactic. After a client alerted him that he was scammed, he reported the incident to us.
“In October, we also saw a spike in email and SMS scams, often asking people to update their personal details. These scams usually contain links to fake online services to get personal information that enables scammers to steal your identity.”
Earlier this year, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commissioner projected scam losses to exceed $532 million by the end of the year, surpassing half a billion dollars for the first time.
In 2018, over $489 million was lost to scammers, with ATO impersonation scams contributing to over $2.8 million in losses.
A total of 114,625 ATO impersonation scams were reported in 2018, with over 21,000 potentially compromised personal identities.
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.