Getting scammed can happen to the best of us.
A client of ours recently fell victim to a tax scam. Contrary to what you may think, she’s not an elderly woman who gets easily confused by technology – she’s a young, highly intelligent woman who nevertheless managed to get taken in. The call looked like it came from a legitimate ATO phone number, the caller threatened that she would go to jail and warned her not to hang up the phone, and then demanded that she pay her outstanding balance (which was about $2K) in Google Play Store gift cards.
What was particularly sophisticated about this scam was that not only did it appear to come from a legitimate ATO phone number, but the scammers also pretended to contact her tax agent to confirm the debt.
A more recent scam that’s currently doing the rounds is a text message purporting to be from the ATO, saying that your tax refund is ready, with a link you have to click on to claim it.
Here’s what you need to know to beat the scammers at their own game:
- The ATO will not send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link or directing you to a login page. Their main forms of contact are a letter in the mail or a message in MyGov. When in doubt, call the ATO directly (13 28 61) by manually typing the numbers into your phone’s keypad.
- Representatives from the ATO will never threaten to deport you or throw you into jail.
- If someone from “the ATO” says you need to pay your outstanding debt with iTunes or Google Pay gift cards, prepaid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or a direct credit to a personal bank account, you’ll know it’s a scammer.
- Similarly, the ATO will never request that you pay a fee in order to release your tax refund – they can deduct any outstanding amounts owed to Centrelink or other agencies automatically.
- The caller is a ‘robo-voice’.
If you experience any of the above, delete the text message or hang up the phone. Further, if you think you have fallen victim to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.