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Taxpayers fooled by fake tax bills, ATO finds

Stressed woman

With 1 million Aussies required to make a payment to the Tax Office come 21 November, the ATO’s assistant commissioner has cautioned taxpayers to be on high alert for tax scams.

According to assistant commissioner Kath Anderson, scammers are using sophisticated and aggressive techniques to swindle Australian taxpayers out of their hard-earned money or personal details.

The ATO has recorded more than 28,000 scam attempts on everyday Aussies since July this year, with victims paying almost $1 million into the hands of scammers.

“November is a prime time for scammers as they know lots of people have tax bills to pay. Be wary if someone contacts you demanding payment of a tax debt you didn’t know you owed,” Ms Anderson said.

She said to be cautious of anyone that requests payments through bitcoin ATMs, iTunes vouchers or other pre-paid cards, as well as those who are overly forthright, rude or aggressive in their attempts to seek debt repayment.

“Our advice is simple – the ATO will never ask you to make a payment into an ATM or via gift or pre-paid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards, or direct credit to be paid to a personal bank account,” Ms Anderson said.

She urged taxpayers to contact the ATO directly should they have difficulty paying their tax bills by the due date.

“Payment plans can offer reassurance and generally, if you have a tax bill of less than $100,000, you can set up a payment plan through your myGov account. We also have an online payment estimator that will help you work out regular payment amounts and how much interest you could be charged,” she said.

“Taxpayers who lodge through a registered tax agent generally have longer to pay their tax bill. Your tax agent will advise if and when any payment is due.”

Ms Anderson also took the opportunity to state her concern at the number of taxpayers that have unknowingly shared their personal details with scammers.

“Since 1 July, we’ve seen almost 6,000 taxpayers give away their personal or financial information to scammers through things like phishing scams,” she said.

“Your identifying information like tax file numbers, bank account numbers or your date of birth are the keys to your identity, and can be used by scammers to break into your life if they are compromised.

“If you’ve received an unsolicited email or text, or if you have any doubts about whether any contact is legitimately from the ATO, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to check.

“Scammers have been known to impersonate tax agents too. It’s recommended that you hang up and call your agent direct on a number you have sourced independently.”

This is not the first such warning of its kind from the Tax Office, with the ATO urging Aussies taxpayers to be cautious of unsolicited calls from scammers pretending to be their tax agents.

The scam sees victims contacted by two scammers via a three-way call, one pretending to be an ATO officer and the other the tax agent.

Further information on how to spot and avoid a tax scam, as offered by H&R Block’s director of tax communication, can be found here.

Taxpayers fooled by fake tax bills, ATO finds
Stressed woman
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