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ATO Scams – What do I do?

By December 8, 2023No Comments

Scams are easily the most prevalent danger we face in our day-to-day lives. Even if you are familiar with all the classic warning signs, your online safety is not guaranteed. In light of this year’s Scams Awareness Week theme, ‘Impersonation Scams’, there is no better time than now to take a look at ATO related scams and what to do if you fall victim to online tax fraud.

 

Popular Scams

We’ve all received those suspicious texts about missing parcels or unpaid tolls, but scammers posing as the ATO are just as rampant, if not more dangerous.

According to the latest figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Australians have lost $398.7 million to scammers since the start of the year. Scammers most commonly reach out to victims via text messages and emails, pretending that something is wrong and requiring action right away.

The most common ATO scams include:

  • ATO impersonation on social media
  • Tax refund SMS scams
  • Tax lodgment email scams
  • Fake TFN/ABN applications
  • Fake tax debt
  • False alerts of a suspended TFN

You can read in more detail about each of these types of scams in our previous blog post.

In just this past month, the ATO announced an increase in multifactor authentication email scams, where scammers try to convince their victim that their ATO account needs a security update. A QR code or a link is provided, leading you to a fake MyGov website asking you for log in details.

 

Warning Signs

When dealing with strange correspondence from the ‘tax office’, keep in mind the following details.

The ATO will never:

  • Ask for your personal information over a text, email or social media
  • Send you an email, text message or social media post with a log in link/QR code
  • Send a prerecorded/robot voice message demanding urgent payment
  • Threaten to send over the police

The ATO will never ask you to pay via:

  • Cash
  • Overseas bank transfers
  • Gift cards
  • Cardless cash transfers
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Bank transfers OTHER THAN the Reserve Bank of Australia

 

How to avoid being scammed?

The main rule is to not click on links in text messages or e-mails, and to not give away any personal details over the phone. If you are not sure, request a call-back number and case reference. Search for this number on ATO website, to make sure it’s legitimate. Then, you can call the call-back number and discuss your matter. Remember, you are not under any obligation to provide your details over the phone.

 

What to Do?

If you believe that you have been scammed, you should contact the ATO or your accountant immediately. Once suspicious activity has been confirmed, The ATO will ask you if you have lost your wallet or if you have clicked on any suspicious links/correspondence. They will then provide you with a case number. Your ATO account will then be locked and your case sent off to their cybersecurity team. You should contact your bank and your superannuation company to inform them of the ATO investigation.

To try to minimise your exposure to ATO scams, change your passwords frequently and don’t use the same password for every account. You should also have your MyGov ID on maximum strength if possible and be very careful when choosing what devices to log into. Before making any lodgments, always triple check the bank details linked to your ATO account.

If you receive a fraudulent message, take screenshots of your correspondence and email them to reportscams@ato.gov.au. You can also make a report to Scamwatch here.

 

What if I never clicked on a link?

Sometimes, scammers will commit fraud in your name without contacting you directly. Whether it be through a data leak or some other sort of security breach, your data may have been compromised and used for fraudulent purposes. If you:

  • Get a notification that your return has been lodged when you have not done your tax
  • Notice updated bank details on your ATO account
  • Notice other unusual activity on your ATO account

You should get in contact with the ATO and your accountant immediately.

 

Support for Victims

Many thousands of Australians fall victim to online scams, yet it can be very hard for victims come out about their experience. Victims of scams are often perceived as lacking common sense or education and can feel embarrassed to ask for help. It is important to engage in discussions around scams not only to raise awareness, but also to provide the victims with a sense of support.

If you are a victim in need of support, you can call the ATO ID Case Support Line on 1800 595 160. If you need assistance or would like to speak to an accountant, feel free to make a booking with one of our friendly staff members.

 

Contact Numbers

ATO Client Identity Support Center – 1800 467 033
ATO ID Case Support Line – 1800 595 160
The Australian Cybersecurity Centre – 1300 292 371

 

Further Reading: