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Dressed up as the government: Tax time triggers rise in scams

  • July 22 2020
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Dressed up as the government: Tax time triggers rise in scams

By Grace Ormsby
July 22 2020

The consumer watchdog has warned that impersonation scams are on the rise, with more than $1.26 million having been lost by Australians from more than 7,100 instances of fraudulent behaviour.

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Dressed up as the government: Tax time triggers rise in scams

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  • July 22 2020
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The consumer watchdog has warned that impersonation scams are on the rise, with more than $1.26 million having been lost by Australians from more than 7,100 instances of fraudulent behaviour.

text scams

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is urging Australians to watch out for government impersonation scams.

There’s been an increase in scams reported during tax time, it revealed, with a number of text messages claiming to be from myGov or from agencies that claim to help victims gain early access to their superannuation.

According to ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard, “Scammers are increasingly taking advantage of the financial difficulties and uncertainty generated from the COVID-19 pandemic to trick unsuspecting Australians.”

Ms Rickard said there are two main types of scams being used: fake government threats and phishing scams.

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“Both of these scams can be quite convincing and can lead to significant financial losses or even identity theft,” she warned.

Fake government threats

Fake government threat scams see victims receive a robocall pretending to be from a government department, such as the ATO or Department of Home Affairs.

Scammers will claim something illegal has been committed in the victim’s name – like tax fraud or money laundering – and they should dial 1 to speak to an operator.

The scammer will then try to scare victims into handing over money, and may threaten arrest for any refusal, but Ms Rickard has advised, “Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller.”

“Take your time to consider who you might be dealing with,” she continued.

“Government departments will never threaten you with immediate arrest or ask for payment by unusual methods such as gift cards, iTunes vouchers or bank transfers.”

Phishing scams

In a phishing scam, a victim will receive an email or text message that claims to be from a government department, such as Services Australia, that contains an external link.

Usually, such scams include a request of personal details to confirm eligibility for a government payment or because the person may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Phishing scams will request personal details – from a tax file number to your superannuation details, or even your identity documents.

Ms Rickard has recommended not clicking on any hyperlinks in texts or emails that appear to reach a government website.

“Always type the address into the browser yourself,” the deputy chair has advised.

“Do not respond to texts or emails as the scammer will escalate their attempts to get your money.”

“If you’re not sure whether a call is legitimate, hang up and call the relevant organisation directly by finding the details though an independent search,” Ms Rickard said.

The new warning comes just days after the Australian Cyber Security Centre issued a similar warning, due to increased reports of myGov-related SMS and email scams.

“At this time of year, when people expect some form of interaction with the ATO during tax time, be aware that cyber criminals take advantage by pretending to be the ATO or myGov,” it reported.

Such scams look like they have come from an ATO or myGov email and they ask you to click on a link to verify your details.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre has reiterated: “As always, our advice is don’t click any links and don’t provide the information requested.”

Want to better protect yourself against cyber crime? nestegg recently chatted with Professor Asha Rao, the associate dean of mathematical sciences at RMIT University, about the importance of remaining vigilant and how to stay safe online. You can listen here

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About the author

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Grace is a journalist on Momentum Media's nestegg. She enjoys being able to provide easy to digest information and practical tips for Australians with regard to their wealth, as well as having a platform on which to engage leading experts and commentators and leverage their insight.

About the author

Grace is a journalist on Momentum Media's nestegg. She enjoys being able to provide easy to digest information and practical tips for Australians with regard to their wealth, as well as having a platform on which to engage leading experts and commentators and leverage their insight.

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