Over the first quarter of 2019, the ATO received 40,225 reports of impersonation scams with just over $1 million in losses.
According to assistant commissioner Gavin Siebert, scammers are using “Robocall” technology to issue pre-recorded phone calls that impersonate legitimate phone numbers of the ATO.
“Scammers are sending pre-recorded messages in record numbers and are manipulating caller identification so that your phone displays a legitimate ATO phone number despite coming from an overseas scammer,” said Mr Siebert.
“We are now seeing thousands of Australians missing a call from a scammer, returning the call based on the number on caller ID and speaking to legitimate members of the ATO. Our calls do not show a number on caller ID nor do we use pre-recorded messages.
“If the scammers do make contact, they will request payment of a tax debt – usually through unusual methods like bitcoin, gift cards and vouchers. Legitimate ways to pay your tax debt are listed on our website. The scammers will threaten you with immediate arrest, attempt to keep you on the line until payment is made and may become rude or aggressive.”
Scams on the rise
The ATO reported back in early December last year that more than 37,000 scam attempts had been made in the month of November alone. Over $800,000 was lost to scammers impersonating the ATO that month.
It also warned investors about a sophisticated scam in early January involving fake telephone calls impersonating the Tax Practitioners Board.
Tips and strategies
The Tax Office recently released tips for Australian investor on how to identify a scam and protect themselves from fraud online. You can read the comprehensive guide here.