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How to Avoid ATO Impersonation Scams

Think you’re too smart to get scammed? Think again.

Scammers are getting wiser by the second, upping the ante by using the latest technology to make their schemes look and sound legit.

In 2018, reported scams reached 177,516 with total reported losses amounting to $489.7 million. This was an 18% increase since 2017, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Targeting Scams 2018 report. One of the most common scams was the ATO impersonation scam, wherein the scammer pretends to be from the Australian Tax Office and claims you have an outstanding tax debt. They would also threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay the debt right away.

The way these scammers get away with it is by making the number appearing on the caller ID seem like a legitimate ATO number. According to the ATO, the common scammer numbers appearing on caller IDs are 6216 1111 and 1800 467 033.

The way these scammers get away with it is by making the number appearing on the caller ID seem like a legitimate ATO number. According to the ATO, the common scammer numbers appearing on caller IDs are 6216 1111 and 1800 467 033.

Signs to know if you are being scammed:

Robocall

The scam begins with a prerecorded message stating there’s a lawsuit filed against your name concerning tax evasion. Another scam robocall, a prerecorded message, is also being used to trick you into thinking the call is legit. You can listen to this prerecorded message here.

Rude and threatening behaviour

If the caller tells you that you will be arrested if you hang up, then you are talking to a scammer. They will also refuse to let you consult your trusted advisor or tax agent regarding the outstanding debt. According to the ATO, they will never use aggressive or rude behaviour when getting in touch. They will also not threaten with immediate arrest, jail or deportation.

Unusual payment requests

Scammers will ask you to pay your debt via iTunes gift cards, Google Play gift cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency/bitcoin, or direct transfer to a personal account. In fact, retailers have also issued a warning about scammers requesting gift cards as the payment method. To be sure, check out the ATO’s legitimate payment options.

What to do when getting a scam call:

Keep calm

They will threaten you with arrest or deportation. While these fear tactics could cause alarm and stress, staying calm will help you take control of the situation.

Don’t give out your personal information

Your full name, birth date, address, bank account numbers, passport information, e-mail address, and tax file number — these are all sensitive information you shouldn’t disclose to other people, especially on the phone. They could use these pieces of information to steal your identity or hack your accounts. Make sure you trust the person on the other end of the line before disclosing these details.

Just hang up

Don’t let them intimidate you from giving your personal information. If you feel like you’re getting scammed, then just hang up. If you’re uncertain whether you’re being scammed or not, you can call the ATO directly at 1800 008 540, Monday to Friday, between 8:00am to 6:00pm to verify your situation. You can also check Scamwatch to see if the number they used to call you has been flagged as a scam. Alternatively, you could check your myGov account to double check if you have any outstanding tax debts.

According to the ATO, they have already received 40,225 reports of impersonations scams in 2019. Let’s not add to that by being vigilant.

For more information about the other types of scams, check out the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ScamWatch. You can also check out the ATO’s most recent scam alert for more information on the different ATO impersonation scams. For banking related scams, ASIC has offered tips on how to avoid them.

If you believe you’ve been a victim to an online cyber-crime, please report it to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network immediately.

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