The ATO is urging taxpayers to be vigilant following an increase in reports of fake websites offering to provide TFNs and ABNs for a fee but failing to provide the service.
The fake TFN and ABN services are often advertised on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The advertisements offer to obtain a TFN or ABN for a fee but instead the scammer uses its fraudulent website to steal both money and personal information.
ATO assistant commissioner Tim Loh said scammers were constantly developing new ways to target the community.
“We expect to see more of these malicious attempts to steal identity details in the lead up to tax time,” he said.
“We are concerned about a recent increase in the number of victims reporting scams around TFN and ABN applications.
“We are also still seeing scammers impersonating the ATO, making threats, demanding the payment of fake tax debts or claiming a TFN has been ‘suspended’ due to fraud.”
In 2021, more than 50,000 people reported ATO impersonation scams with victims losing a total of more than $800,000.
Mr Loh said it is free, quick and easy to use government services to apply for a TFN through the ATO, or apply for an ABN through the Australian Business Register.
Those who apply for a TFN or ABN through a tax agent should also always check that the tax agent is registered with the Tax Practitioners Board.
“We are encouraging everyone to be on alert and take the time to remind family and friends to be on the lookout and stay safe online, so you don’t fall victim to a scam this tax time,” Mr Loh said.
Tips to protect against scammers
The ATO said taxpayers and businesses can better protect against rising scams by first “knowing your tax affairs”.
“You will be notified about your tax debt before it is due,” the ATO said.
“Check if you have a legitimate debt owed by logging into your myGov account via an independent search or by calling your tax agent if you have one (on a number sourced independently).”
Taxpayers should also make sure to guard personal and financial information. This included clicking on links, downloading files or opening attachments.
“Only give your personal information to people you trust and don’t share it on social media,” the ATO said.
“If you are unsure, don’t engage. If a call, SMS or email leaves you wondering if it is genuine, don’t reply.
“Instead, you should phone the ATO’s dedicated scam line 1800 008 540 to check if it is legitimate. You can also verify or report a scam online at ato.gov.au/scams. You can also visit ScamWatch to get information about scams (not just tax scams).”
The ATO said businesses should also understand legitimate ways to make payments.
“Scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying fake debts via unusual methods,” the ATO said.
“For example, they might demand pre-paid gift cards or transfers to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, visit ato.gov.au/howtopay.
“Talk to your family and friends about scams – If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a tax related scam, call the ATO as soon as you can.”
Tony Zhang is a journalist at Accountants Daily, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the accounting sector.
Since joining the Momentum Media team in 2020, Tony has written for a range of its publications including Lawyers Weekly, Adviser Innovation, ifa and SMSF Adviser. He has been full-time on Accountants Daily since September 2021.