Tax time has attracted the imagination and ingenuity, not to mention greed, of clever scammers.
ABC business reporter Andrew Robertson said his son received an unexpected tax return of $8,000 from the Australian Tax Office (ATO). However, this was not a genuine refund. Somehow, a scammer had hacked his details and filed a fake tax return. The ATO had processed the return, and issued the son with a payment.
In time, the ATO would detect this, and ask Mr Robertson's son to repay the money. The scammer takes advantage of this by contacting the son first, pretending to be an official from the ATO, and demanding the refund. The money, of course, will not go to the ATO, but to the scammer.
This kind of fraud is easy to carry out by harvesting information from social media. The sums involved in the fake refunds will generally be less that $10,000, so they will not attract attention.
Assistant tax commissioner Kath Anderson told the ABC there have already been 29,000 reports of scams this year, with people losing about $1.6 million.
She warns that information like tax file numbers, bank account numbers or your date of birth can be used by scammers to “break into your life”. “Your personal information must be treated like your bank PIN,” she says.
There are some clues that a caller is a scammer. The ATO will not:
abuse you or speak offensively
threaten you with immediate arrest
ask you to transfer money into an account with a BSB that is not 092009 or 093003
request payment via unusual methods such as iTunes gift cards or other prepaid cards
request personal security information, such as your TFN or bank details, via email, SMS or social media
ask for money up front in order to receive a refund or other payment
direct you to download files from the internet
If you are suspicious about the caller, contact your tax agent or call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to see if the call was genuine.
When making a repayment to the ATO, make sure you only use one of the methods listed on the ATO website.