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Aussies are being targeted by 'cardless cash' scams, according to the ATO – here's how they work

Sharon Masige
  • Around $2 million was lost to scammers pretending to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) between November 2018 and January 2019.
  • The tax office added that scammers are becoming more sophisticated in their approach.
  • The ATO also warned against cardless cash scams, which are becoming more popular.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Another day, another scam.

In late 2018, the ATO saw the largest peak in money lost to scammers pretending to be from the ATO. It found that around $2 million was lost between November 2018 and January 2019.

These scams have been done by phone, email, SMS and Whatsapp. But one of the latest scams the tax office is witnessing are cardless cash scams.

The cardless cash feature, offered by banks including Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank, allows users to withdraw cash using their phone.

After signing in to the app, you select the amount of money you want and a special code is generated. Then, when you go to an ATM, you select 'cardless cash', enter your code and receive your cash.

But scammers have been taking advantage of people using this process.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat told Business Insider it was "a new twist on an old scam".

"Late last year we saw a big spike in tax debt scams," Foat explained. "That's where you get a phone call with someone trying to convince you that you've got a tax debt. And the new twist is now that some of these scammers are using cardless cash.

"So what they do is after they've convinced you that you've got a tax debt, they then ask you who you bank with. And then they can even walk you through how to set up cardless cash if you bank with a bank that uses that.

When you set up cardless cash, the scammers will then ask victims to give them the code.

"They give the code to the scammer who then goes to the ATM and gets the money out," she said.

In a statement, Foat added that one person from Sydney "was duped out of $500 through this tactic".

Speaking to Business Insider, Foat said scammers are always changing their tactics. "Once people start to catch on about one type of scam, they'll change it a little bit," she said. "For example, late last year, we saw a huge spike in robocall scams and again, these were tax debt scams."

She explained that robocalls involved someone getting an initial robot telephone call or message saying that they had a tax debt. The scammers would then say something like if you don't pay immediately, there would be a warrant out for your arrest.

"Initially, [scammers] did have quite a lot of success with getting payments out of people, but after people started to catch on, they tried different tactics," Foat said. "They'd have a three-way call and they'd say the third person on the call was the police."

Foat said scammers have become more sophisticated.

“I’m particularly concerned about the sophistication these scammers keep showing," Foat said in a statement. "They are getting better at impersonating large organisations and ramp up in periods where people expect to hear from us, to make their threats appear more legitimate.

“While some taxpayers will have tax payments due from November, the ATO will always let you know how much you owe and the due date when we send your notice of assessment."

However, Foat said the ATO has seen a rise in the number of people reporting scams and a drop in the number of people giving their money to scammers. "But any money going to scammers is too much," she said.

“In October, we also saw a spike in email and SMS scams, often asking people to update their personal details. These scams usually contain links to fake online services to get personal information that enables scammers to steal your identity."

Earlier this year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) expected the amount of money Australians lose to scams to exceed $532 million by the end of 2019 — surpassing half a billion dollars for the first time.

Read more: The ATO reveals the wildest claims taxpayers have made – from Lego to a wedding reception