With the 2016 tax season in full swing, the ATO is reminding everyone to be vigilant of potential tax-related scams. Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte has advised that scammers are particularly active during tax time due to the large number of people lodging their tax returns.
The ATO has advised that in the last couple of years they have seen a significant increase in the number and types of scams reported. Fraudsters are increasingly sophisticated in the different types of approaches that they use to take your hard earned cash. Little can be done to stop such scams. The criminals involved are usually based offshore and use techniques which are almost impossible for Australian law enforcement agencies to trace.
The three types of scams to be vigilant about are:
Phishing emails that claim you are eligible for a tax refund can contain malware applications or ask you to verify your identity.
The emails appear as if they have come from the ATO and usually offer a tax refund. Quite often they will link to a fake ATO website that asks for your personal and credit card details. Whilst the level of sophistication differs with these emails, they all generally state that you are eligible for a refund and to click on a link to claim it.
There is one version of this scam that contains an attachment with a virus. Definitely do not open the attachment. If you receive ‘.exe’ files, these are likely to be malware applications that will compromise your computer when opened.
The emails that ask you to verify your identity request photos of your personal identification documents such as a passport. They also request you to verify your home address by providing a utilities bill or bank statement. The email states that once they have “performed our verification checks” they will email you to let you know your account is verified.
If there is an error or problem with your tax return, the ATO will not contact you by email.
Mobile Phone Scams
The mobile phone scams differ in appearance and level of sophistication, but generally claim that you are eligible for a refund. They instruct you to click on a link, which is a link to a fake ATO website. You are then asked for your personal information, including your mobile number, as well as your credit card details. If you click on this link, you are potentially risking identity theft.
Scams sent to your mobile can be tricky to recognise. The ATO advises that they may occasionally send an SMS, however they will never message asking for personal or credit card details.
Occasionally, the ATO may contact you by phone. You should be wary of unsolicited phone calls claiming to be from the ATO. These scams include an offer of a refund, an offer to reduce your tax for retirement, a claim that a warrant has been issued for your arrest due to an error on your tax return or a claim that you have received a business grant. There is also a scam claiming that you are owed a refund and in order to receive the refund, you need to send money, via a money transfer, to an Indian orphanage.
As tax agents, contact from the ATO regarding your tax affairs should come via our office. The ATO will only provide refunds via cheque or as a direct credit to an Australian financial institution.
Whilst the ATO does communicate via email, it would never request personal details such as banking details and the ATO does not make telephone contact seeking payment of a tax debt without first writing to you.
If you receive an alleged tax debt, we recommend that you do not pay it without first talking to us. You can also phone the ATO on 1800 008 540. If it sounds too good to be true, remember it usually is!