In an online article, the ATO said individuals should be aware that the Tax Office will never threaten them with immediate arrest, jail or deportation.
It also stated that the ATO will never call demanding immediate payment of a tax debt, ask for payment via vouchers such as iTunes and Google Play or Bitcoin, or request a fee to be paid to release a refund.
Some of the other tell-tale signs the ATO said are abusive or threatening behavior and asking for the money to be transferred to an account with a BSB that is not held with the Reserve Bank of Australia.
“We will inform you about your tax debt before it is due. You can also check if you owe us money through your myGov account, your tax agent, or by phoning us,” the ATO said.
“We provide you with a range of legitimate payment options on our website if you have a tax debt.”
The ATO also informed taxpayers that it won’t use email, text messages or social media to provide personal information such as a TFN, credit care or bank details, nor will it send downloadable files or tell individuals to install software.
Some of the typical ways that scammers may try to trick individuals, it said, is by using voice over internet protocol phone numbers to make and receive calls from anywhere in the world or spoofing phone numbers to make calls and text messages appear to come from Australia.
Scammers may also send pre-recorded messages to large numbers of people asking for an immediate call back, the ATO explained.
They may also send copycat emails with attachments or links that take individuals to fake login screens or web pages to trick you into downloading malicious software or giving them your personal information or contain programs that record your computer key strokes to get your personal information or login credentials, it warned.
Some scammers may also send ransomware or malicious software that stops your computer working until you pay a fee – often by Bitcoin.
Spoofing websites or login pages designed to access personal information and accessing public profiles on social media to learn about an individual so they can meet proof of record ownership or break their passwords are other methods used.
The ATO said that individuals should only share their personal information with people they trust and organisations with a legitimate need for it.
“You should treat requests for personal information with caution. Before providing your personal information, ask the person who calls, emails, messages or comes to your door for some identity credentials and verify the person’s credentials by calling their organisation or place of work,” it said.
It also recommended keeping personal information in a secure place and avoid carrying documents such as birth certificates or passports in handbags or wallets unless they are needed.
“Don’t store personal information, such as TFNs, passwords or PINs, in your mobile phone,” it said.
“Never leave personal papers or spare house keys in the glove box of your car. Use a locked mailbox or a post office box if you receive large volumes of mail.”
It also said to shred or destroy documents that contain any personal information.
“Make sure electronic documents containing personal information are secure. Protect these files with passwords and encryption, or use a trusted data vault website,” the ATO said.
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.
The Tax Office has also had to contend with scammers impersonating registered tax agents in a bid to lend credibility to the scam.