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Tax time scam: Cyber criminals are impersonating the ATO via WhatsApp

It's nearing tax time – and that means scams are abounding. (Photos: Getty)
It's nearing tax time – and that means scams are abounding. (Photos: Getty)

Australians have been warned about an influx of scammers who are using popular messaging app WhatsApp to impersonate the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

“The scam is the latest twist to the fake tax debt scam where scammers issue a pre-recorded voice message to your phone demanding immediate payment of a tax debt and threatening immediate arrest,” the ATO said.

“In addition to requesting payment via unusual methods, the scammers may also ask call recipients to send a photo of their driver’s licence, passport or other identity credential via WhatsApp.”

The consequences could be far-reaching, and could see victims’ identity compromised, the tax office indicated.

The ATO asserted that it does not have a profile on WhatsApp, and would not ever engage with Australians through the messaging platform.

“Cyber criminals can also use vulnerabilities in apps such as WhatsApp to access your phone or device,” the ATO added.

In February, Australian government agency Stay Smart Online warned that hackers could potentially gain access to the mobile phones of Australians by exposing users’ tendencies not to change their default PIN codes.

WhatsApp users have been advised to update their app in order to ensure their messaging app is protected by the latest security updates.

If you’ve received a scam phone call or text message that impersonates the ATO and you haven’t provided payment or sensitive information, report the scam online to the ATO.

If you have paid or provided sensitive personal or banking information to a scammer, call the ATO on 1800 008 540.

“This number can also be used to verify if an interaction with the ATO is legitimate,” the tax office added.

Late last month, the ATO warned about scam texts sent to Australians that asked for personal information in order to receive a fake ‘tax refund’.

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