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WARNING: ATO scammers have found a new way to steal

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Scammers trying to fleece money out of Australians by pretending to be the tax office have reportedly changed tactics for the new year.

Last year, the Australian Taxation Office battled to warn the public not to engage with scammers who threatened to prosecute taxpayers if they didn’t make immediate payment for fake “tax debts”.

They pretended to be the ATO by manipulating the calling identification so the call appears to be from the tax office.

After stealing more than $800,000 in November alone, the new year has seen their modus operandi shift as more people become aware of the scam.

“We are seeing the emergence of a new tactic, where scammers are using an ATO number to send fraudulent SMS messages to taxpayers asking them to click on a link and hand over their personal details in order to obtain a refund,” said assistant commissioner Karen Foat.

Foat warned that just because the originating number of a phone call or a text message is a real ATO telephone number, it doesn’t mean that the call or text is legitimate.

“Taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message or email asking you to provide login, personal or financial information, especially if you weren’t expecting it,” she said.

“This scam is not just targeting your money, but is after your personal information in an attempt to steal your identity.”

The tax office has stated it would never request the recipient to click on a link to type in login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment. ATO staff would never “use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation”.

The real tax office would also never demand payment via iTunes or Google Play vouchers, prepaid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account. And it would never ask for a fee to be paid to “release” a tax refund.

Australians that experience a scam incident are encouraged to notify the ATO on its dedicated telephone number on 1800 008 540.

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