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Dangerous scam cost taxpayers $800,000 in 30 days

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Scammers posing as the Australian Tax Office swindled Australian taxpayers out of $800,000 in 30 days alone, and the risk isn’t over yet.

The tax office received more than 37,000 reports of the scam in November alone, with scammers capitalising on Australians’ post-tax deadline anxiety.

Taxpayers were required to have their tax returns filed by 31 October or risk a fine.

Knowing this, scammers are posing as ATO officials and aggressively demanding payment for fake tax debts.

What should I be on the lookout for?

The scammers are posing as ATO officials over the phone and may be using software which masks the scam number as a legitimate phone number.

“The ATO does not project our numbers using caller ID. You can be confident that if there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it isn’t the ATO,” assistant commissioner Kath Anderson advised.

Taxpayers should also maintain a healthy level of scepticism for any unexpected communications from the ATO, she added.

That includes any phone call, text, email or letter about a tax refund or debt.

“It’s OK to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or to report a scam,” Anderson said.

“While phone scams are the most common at the moment, scammers are constantly changing tactics. Taxpayers should still beware of unsolicited emails and SMS, with more than 6,000 people handing over their personal or financial information to scammers since July this year.”

One elderly woman lost $236,000 to scammers between June and November.

Aggressive or rude behaviour and threats of jail or deportation are also major red flags.

The ATO will never ask taxpayers to pay a debt through iTunes, cryptocurrency or pre-paid visa cards, so prompts to do this should be treated with extreme suspicion.

Additionally, the tax office will not ask you to make a direct credit payment to bank account with a BSB that isn’t 092-009 or 093-003.

If you suspect you’ve been targeted by scammers you should call the ATO on 1800 0008 540 and avoid opening or downloading any links in emails or texts, and be careful to not share any personal or financial information.

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