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‘Alarming’: $118k scam empties Aussies’ bank accounts

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
This new ATO scam has caused financial pain to young Australians. Images: Getty
This new ATO scam has caused financial pain to young Australians. Images: Getty

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has issued a warning over a new scam which has cost seven Australians a staggering $118,000.

Under the new threat, the scammers pretend to be helping their targets, by claiming that their tax file numbers (TFN) have been compromised and they need to transfer all their money out of their bank account to protect it.

The ATO has received 683 reports of the scam since the beginning of the year. It cost seven victims nearly $118,000, while one victim lost a huge $36,000 this week.

“While the number of people paying these scammers is low, the large amounts being lost per person is alarming,” Assistant Commissioner Trent Jakubowski said.

“We’re seeing that instead of scammers asking for a specific amount of money, they’re requesting victims transfer every last dollar in their bank account."

What does the scam look like?

Under one version of the scam, the robo-call will advise their threats that their TFN has been suspended as scammers have accessed their details. As such, the victim needs to transfer all of their money to the scammer in order to “protect it” while the TFN issue is sorted out.

The second version of the script sees the robo-call tell victims that their TFN has been used illegally. The victim needs to move all of their money into a holding account pending legal action.

“What’s most malicious, is that in some cases, these scammers are stealing money under the guise of saving it from other fraudsters trying to access their account,” Jakubowski said.

While most scam victims tend to be older, this scam has been particularly devastating for Australians between the ages of 18-24 who have had the largest financial losses.

“This is a reminder for everyone to keep their guard up when answering an unexpected call. While we more often hear stories of older Australians being targeted by scammers, these devastating losses show that anyone can be a target,” Jakubowski said.

The ATO reminded Australians that it will never send unsolicited pre-recorded phone calls or use aggressive or rude behaviour. It will also never threaten with immediate arrest, deportation or suspend a TFN.

Additionally, it will not ask for direct transfers of money to a personal bank account or project its number onto your caller ID.

If you’re not sure if a phone call, email or text is legitimate, it’s fine to hang up, delete or not respond. The ATO has a dedicated scam line at 1800 008 540, or you can report a scam at ato.gov.au/reportascam.

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