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Scammers target 200 Aussies in one day with threats

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
woman holding mobile phone with incoming call from unknown caller

Image: Getty

Scammers cold-called at least 200 Australians on Tuesday, sending them threatening messages and demands for money while pretending to be the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

The Government’s Scamwatch service sounded the alarm on Twitter on Wednesday, reminding Australians that the ATO will never threaten people with immediate arrest.

“Yesterday we received almost 200 reports of recorded or live cold-calls claiming an issue with the victim’s tax return or TFN,” Scamwatch said.

“The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest or send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to your phone.”

These scams are common, and generally use threats to frighten victims into handing over money. The threats can range from arrest to even death.

Scammers may also send emails to convince victims they owe money for speeding fines, unpaid bills or tax office debts.

“Scammers have been known to target vulnerable people, such as the elderly and newly arrived migrants,” Scamwatch said.

Warning signs

If you receive a similar call out of the blue, it’s a good idea to be sceptical, even if the person on the other end of the line says they’re from the ATO or another government agency or trusted company.

“Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller. Stop, think and check whether their story is true,” Scamwatch said.

Similarly, if the ATO is asking for you to wire transfer them money, pay with Bitcoin, gift cards or iTunes vouchers, they’re not the ATO.

“If you receive a phone call from someone threatening you and asking you to pay a fee, hang up and do not respond.”

Australians have already lost $511,071 to these scams in January 2021 and lost $11.8 milion in all of 2020.