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Fresh warning on fake ‘ATO’ demanding payment

·3-min read
Image of men walking past Australian Taxation Office, FRAUD ALERT sign
The ATO has warned about fraud scams. (Source: Getty)

The Australian Taxation Office has issued a warning about scammers who are pretending to be from the tax office and demanding illegitimate payments from Aussies.

The ATO has issued an alert on its website about cyber criminals demanding money from Australians through a number of methods that may appear unusual or unconventional, including gift cards, cardless cash ATM withdrawals, or courier services that collect payments.

Scammers are even being so bold as to ask Australians to hand over cash at pre-designated public locations.

“Scammers are trying to trick people into making payments by pretending to be from the ATO and other agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police,” the ATO said in the alert.

“They might tell you that your TFN has been suspended or compromised due to money laundering or other illegal activity, or that you owe a debt.”

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ATO assistant commissioner Tim Loh said the agency was alarmed by the volume of scammers collecting money on Australian soil.

“Scammers are always on the hunt for new ways to con Australians out of their hard-earned cash. Impersonating ATO staff is one of many common tactics,” Loh said.

Image of ATO assistant commissioner Tim Loh
ATO assistant commissioner Tim Loh is warning Aussies about scams. (Source: ATO/Yahoo Finance screenshot)

“We recently saw one scammer lure a young woman out of lockdown in NSW to drop off $30,000 in cash to a person at a local hardware store carpark.

“The scammer claiming to be from the 'federal police' threatened arrest and told the victim that her TFN was compromised. The victim also sent photocopies of her driver’s licence and Medicare card to the scammer before reporting to the ATO and the police.”

There was another example of a man from Victoria who paid $50,000 to someone he thought was an ATO representative at their front door, he added.

But the real Australian tax office won’t ever ask for payment through any of these methods.

“You should always check legitimate ways to pay a tax debt on our website before making a payment.”

The ATO, along with Scamwatch and the ACCC, have been actively warning Australians about the rising number of scams as cyber criminals take advantage of vulnerable people during the pandemic and in lockdowns.

Major banks have also joined in on the warnings about scammers, as well as telco giant Telstra, which earlier this month warned about garbled text messages about missed calls that have the potential to infect your device.

Tax season is also a popular time for criminal activity to spike as people head online to lodge their tax returns and await their refunds.

The popularity of online shopping, too, has exacerbated online scams as malicious actors prey on people waiting for parcel deliveries.

What to do if you’ve been caught a scam spoofing the ATO

If you’re worried you have handed money over to a fraudster through one of the above methods, or if you’re worried about your personal safety, get in touch with your local police immediately, the ATO advised.

“We also strongly encourage you to contact your financial institution immediately,” the tax office added.

“In some cases, they may be able to stop a transaction or close your account if the scammer has your account details.”

WATCH BELOW: 4 Tips for Spotting and Avoiding Common Scams

Real ways to pay the ATO include BPAY, through your credit or debit card, or paying through myGov, or any of the ATO’s Online Services.

You can also pay through the Government’s EasyPay platform.

If you want to pay the ATO through the phone, the Government’s EasyPay service is available on 1300 898 089.

You can report a scam to the ATO here.

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