It’s tax time again – and with it comes the annual Tax Office warnings about tax scams, which always seem to proliferate during tax season.
So how can you spot a scam and what can you do to prevent being fleeced?
Tax scams can take many forms
Phone scams are the number one type of scam in Australia, according to the Tax Office.
A scammer will ring you and impersonate a Tax Office employee to obtain your personal and financial information.
These scammers often demand that you pay a so-called tax debt (that you didn’t know you owed). They will try to intimidate you with threats of penalties and even arrest if you don’t pay up. They prey on your desire to do the right thing and meet your taxpaying obligations – as the Tax Office reports, a scammer may even offer to send a taxi to take you to a post office to make a payment!
Or the scammer might offer to facilitate the transfer of a tax refund (that you weren’t expecting) – after you pay a processing fee by credit card over the phone, of course!
But scammers aren’t just glued to their phones. They also send out bogus emails and text messages purporting to be from the Tax Office, containing a link to an official-looking website where the intended victims are asked to enter personal and financial details.
Going beyond stealing your cash: stealing your identity
Some scams are more insidious than blatantly extorting some cash from you.
The scammer may be more interested in getting hold of your personal identification data – your myGov login details; tax file number; bank account numbers; address; date of birth; drivers licence, Medicare and passport numbers; and so on.
The fraudsters can then use your private details to lodge fake tax returns in your name and keep the refunds for themselves. Or they may commit identity fraud in a myriad of other ways – such as by claiming government benefits, borrowing money from shady lenders or purchasing stolen goods, all the while pretending to be you.
So how can you tell if it’s a scam?
The Tax Office will never ring you and ask for your credit card, bank account or personal details over the phone. It most certainly will not threaten you with arrest over the phone for a tax debt that you didn’t even know about!
Just hang up. Or if the call seems above board, ask the caller for their name, their supervisor’s name and a case ID. If it’s a genuine call, you’ll be given that information. You can then ring the Tax Office on 13 28 65 and speak to someone about that matter.
The Tax Office will also never send text messages and emails asking you to enter personal details online. Again, if you’re not sure, call the Tax Office to check whether the correspondence is genuine.
If you have a registered tax agent, alert them to any and all Tax Office communications and let them take care of it.
Help protect others by reporting scams
Even if you wisely hung up on a scam call or ignored a bogus email, do the community a service and report the incident to the Tax Office:
phone 1800 060 062 between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday; or
forward suspicious emails to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au.