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ATO’s serious warning to young Aussies: ‘Watch out’

The signage in the front of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) building in the CBD.
The ATO has warned young people to be wary of scammers. (Source: Getty)

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has taken action against 595 websites impersonating its online services.

The ATO said the fake sites were designed to steal passwords, personal information and identity documents, such as passports and driver's licenses.

“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of SMS and email scams leading to fake myGov sign-in pages – we’ve had more than 360 of these scams reported since April 2022,” ATO assistant commissioner Tim Loh said.

“However, we see many different types of tax and super scams happening year round, not just in the lead-up to tax time.”

Scammers are always looking for new ways to convince unsuspecting taxpayers into divulging personal information, such as bank details, usernames and passwords.

“This year, the ATO has taken out the guesswork and busted some scam myths to help people stay protected,” Loh said.

Here are some of those common myths.

Only older people fall for scams

In the past three years, younger Australians have fallen victim to the most tax scams.

In 2021, people aged 25 to 34 reported the most amount of money lost to tax scams, closely followed by those aged 18 to 24.

For contrast, those aged 55 and above were among those who reported the least financial losses, the ATO said.

“We want Gen Z and Millennials to know they need to watch out too, as they are just as susceptible to falling for scams, especially those that involve fake tax debts or threats about alleged fraud,” Loh said.

“If you get a phone call saying it’s from the ATO and it doesn’t sound right, hang up. Check in with someone you trust, like a friend or family member.

“Even better, go to the ATO’s website where we have a listing of all the current ATO scams, or call us on our dedicated scam hotline, 1800 008 540.”

Scams are easy to spot

Loh said he had seen some very convincing email and SMS scams that would trick even the most cautious people.

“Email and SMS scams are not always full of typos, bad grammar and promises of riches from foreign royalty,” Loh said.

“We are seeing many more sophisticated scam messages using official language and fraudulent websites that mimic online services.”

The ATO will contact people through emails and SMS but will not request personal information through those means.

The ATO will never:

  • Send an unsolicited message requesting personal information via a return email or SMS

  • Send an email or SMS with a link to log in to its online services

  • Ask you to pay a fee in order to receive a refund

Scams only happen during tax time

Loh said it was important to always stay vigilant to potential scams, and to keep your personal and financial details safe all year round.

“While you may only focus on your tax when it’s time to lodge, scammers are constantly looking for ways to steal your personal details and financial information,” he said.

“We see different types of tax and super scams happening year round.”

Some common scams involve:

  • Phoning people about a fake tax debt, and threatening that they’ll be arrested if they don’t pay it straight away

  • Sending texts to people saying that they’re suspected of being involved in cryptocurrency tax evasion. If you receive this text, don’t click on the link

  • Sending emails impersonating the ATO and asking for people to update their financial information so their tax refund can be processed

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