ATO Scam Reports, Losses Rise as Consumer Protection Warns Vigilance

Consumer Protection has warned about increasing tax scams, following a rise in reports and victims losing nearly $80,000.

The organisation has issued an alert over the increasing incidence of reports and financial fraud in an effort to reduce the losses.

21 victims have so far reported the tax debt scam to WAScamNet in 2018 after losing a total of $78,250 with 11 people losing $38,800 in November and the highest loss $10,200.

The Australian Tax Office has stated that nationally, 37,000 people had reported losing $800,000 in November.

One person had lost more than $236,000 to the scam.

In the scam, victims are cold-called by scammers who tell them that they are from the Australian Tax Office.

The claim that the victim has a tax debt that needs to be paid and they threaten arrest or deportation if it is not paid.

People who do not answer their phone are left with a threatening automated voicemail message to return the call to the caller.

Scam callers have used an Australian number that has often resulted in victims believing that the call was authentic, but call is usually diverted overseas.

Most victims were told to pay their supposed debt by purchasing iTunes or Google Play cards.

Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard said it was not uncommon for scams to occur during July to December because it was tax time.

“Many people are finalising their tax affairs after the end of the financial year, so it wouldn’t be unusual to get a call from the tax office and the scammers are preying on this,” Mr Hillyard said.

Mr Hillyard said that the Australian Tax Office “will never make threatening phone calls”, hang up if they are concerned.

“If you receive these calls and don’t be intimidated as the scammers want to create a situation of fear and urgency,” he said.

“If you are concerned, contact the ATO independently on their official number to verify the call was fake, but don’t use any numbers that have come from the caller.”

“The ATO will never demand payment using iTunes or Google Play cards or, in some cases, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.”

Mr Hillyard said people also needed to take extra care with scammers using email to defraud Western Australians

“Be aware that you may also get emails or SMS messages purporting to be from the ATO, prompting you to click on a link or open an attachment, which seek to get personal information from you that could lead to your identity being stolen,” he said.

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