"scam alert warning"

It’s tax time, which means you’re most likely looking forward to seeing that extra sum of money in your bank account. With tax time comes a rise in scammers pretending to be from official-sounding organisations, like the Australian Taxation Office, to alarm you into handing over personal and banking details.

We have put together a summary of some of the key tax scams circulating that you need to be aware of:

myGov scam

In late March, the ATO sounded the alert on a scam email that pretended to be from myGov, Australia’s official online government service platform, asking the recipient to fill out a fake application form for a ‘tax refund’.

Here’s what the email looks like:

"screenshot of myGov scam"

(Source: ATO)

Tip: The ATO doesn’t have an online tax refund form.

‘Pay your debt, or risk arrest’

Aussies were warned in early April that scammers were calling and pretending to be from the ATO to demand immediate payment for alleged ‘outstanding debts’ or risk arrest.

These scammers are getting more sophisticated; they have technology that manipulates the calls to look as though they’re coming from the legitimate ATO phone number.

Tip: If they become rude or aggressive on the phone, that’s a surefire sign it’s a scammer. The ATO doesn’t show caller ID, nor demand immediate payment through unusual methods like Bitcoin or gift cards.

‘Shipments in transit’

Also in early April, email security provider MailGuard raised the alarm on another email scam imitating the ATO that asked recipients for “verification” on “attached Tax documents”.

Here’s how it looks:

"screenshot of an email scam imitating the ATO"

(Source: MailGuard)

Attached is a PDF document that aims to appear authentic by including the ATO logo and a Norton logo.

(Source: MailGuard)

"screenshot of pdf appearing authentic by including ATO and Norton logo"

A link in the PDF then takes you to a fake page with the ATO logo tiled as the background, and looks like this:

"screenshot of fake ATO login with ATO tiled background"

(Source: MailGuard)

Unsuspecting victims who plug in their ATO log-in details have had them stolen.

Safety tip: Under no circumstances should you open any attachments or click any links. Forward them onto the ATO at ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au, and then delete the email from your inbox and sent folder.

Fake tax refund texts

Scammers are well aware it’s tax time, and they’re doing their utmost to take advantage of it. This scam comes in the form of a text that looks as though it’s from the ATO, and reads like this:

“You are due for a refund of $2675.51. Visit www.atoreclaim.com and logon with your phone number and ATO PIN to claim.”

Tip: Don’t click the link. The real ATO won’t send you an email or text asking you to access your online services through a hyperlink; it’ll all be through the legitimate myGov platform.

WhatsApp scam

This is the latest scam the ATO is sounding the alarm on – a new twist to the ‘pay your debt or risk arrest’ scam.

Scammers are using the popular Whatsapp messaging app to impersonate the ATO and demand payment, as well as a photo of a drivers’ license, passport, or other ID.

Tip: Just don’t fall for it – the ATO doesn’t have a WhatsApp account, and won’t engage with you through that platform.

These are the things the real ATO would NEVER do:

  • Threaten you with arrest;
  • Demand immediate payment, especially not through unusual means such as Bitcoin, pre-paid credit cards or gift cards;
  • Insist you stay on the line until a payment is made;
  • Ask you to pay debt into a bank account that’s not held by the Reserve Bank of Australia;
  • Send pre-recorded voice messages to your phone;
  • Refuse to allow you to speak with a trusted adviser or your tax agent/accountant;
  • Conference call and include a third party, such as your tax agent or law enforcement;
  • Present a phone number on caller ID;
  • Have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form through a hyperlink;
  • Send you emails with poor grammar or spelling, and are suspiciously missing your name;
  • Send you emails that aren’t from a legitimate @ato.gov.au address;
  • Send you texts asking for personal information, such as your tax file number or credit card details; and
  • Send emails with attachments or fake links asking you to lodge a form – these attachments or links can lead to malware or ransomware being downloaded to your device.

Will the real ATO please stand up?

Here are the ATO’s real details, so you never need to be confused:

  • ATO website: ato.gov.au
  • ATO scam reporting hotline: 1800 008 540
  • myGov: my.gov.au

How to report a scam

If at any time you have any concerns that you may be the target of a potential tax or accounting scam, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 03 6231 3448. Better to be safe than sorry!