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ATO, tax agent COVID-19 scams on the rise, warns mid-tier


ATO scams are continuing to rear their ugly head, with a mid-tier warning that tax agent numbers are now being used by fraudsters taking advantage of COVID-19 uncertainty.

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HLB Mann Judd Sydney managing partner Tony Fittler said he has seen a stark increase in the number of clients contacting the firm with concerns about cold calls from scammers.

In particular, he has seen a return of tax agents being impersonated, as scammers look to legitimise their calls.

An example includes a fraudster impersonating the ATO to inform a taxpayer that he owes a tax debt, before connecting in another scammer impersonating someone from the victim’s tax agent’s practice.

“We’re regularly getting calls from clients who’ve had strange requests, supposedly from the ATO, and the nature of the calls is getting more sophisticated,” Mr Fittler said.

“Scammers are clever with ATO calls in particular, with the tax agents number appearing to confirm the legitimacy of the call, which is of concern to many in the profession.”

The ATO’s most recent July ATO impersonation scam report revealed that 5,118 scams were reported during the month, with a total of $172,540 being paid to scammers during this period, and 352 clients providing scammers with sensitive personal identifying information.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre also recently issued a high alert around myGov-related SMS and email scams that appear to come from a myGov or ATO email address.

Mr Fittler has urged practitioners and businesses to carefully monitor and record such dubious scams calls and report them to the relevant authorities.

“Unfortunately, the increase in scamming activity comes at a time when business confidence is down and there is still so much lingering uncertainty due to the impact of COVID-19,” Mr Fittler said.

“It’s an emotional time for many business owners who are already struggling to keep things afloat; the last thing they need is to unknowingly hand over sensitive financial information to someone purporting to be from the ATO.

“The advice to business owners is to be alert and aware that this sort of activity is happening, and while it can often appear logical and warranted, it’s better to question the contact than not.”

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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.

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