Think you have to be old or naïve to be a scam target? Think again.
In the last 12 months, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has taken action against 595 websites impersonating their online services. These fake sites are designed to steal passwords, personal information and identity documents, such as passports and driver licences.
Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh explains: “Right now, we’re seeing a lot of SMS and email scams leading to fake myGov sign-in pages… we’ve had more than 360 of these scams reported since April 2022. However, we see many different types of tax and super scams happening year-round, not just in the lead up to tax time.”
Scammers are always looking for new ways to convince unsuspecting taxpayers into divulging personal information, such as bank details, usernames and passwords.
During their investigations the ATO has collected a lot of data which debunks a lot of the myths around scams and makes you realise that any of us could be a scam target.
Myth #1: Only older people fall for scams
In the last three years, younger Australians have fallen victim to the most tax scams. For instance, in 2021, people aged 25 to 34 reported the most amount of money lost to tax scams, closely followed by those aged 18 to 24. In contrast, those aged 55 and above were among those who reported the least financial losses to the ATO.
If you get a phone call saying it’s from the ATO and it doesn’t sound right, hang up. Check in with someone you trust, like a friend or family member. Even better go to the ATO’s website where they have a listing of all the current ATO scams or call their dedicated scam hotline 1800 008 540.
Myth #2: Scams are easy to spot. You’d be a fool to fall for one!
Email and SMS scams are not always full of typos, bad grammar, and promises of riches from foreign royalty. The ATO are seeing many more sophisticated scam messages using official language and fraudulent websites that mimic online services.
The ATO does send emails and SMS to clients to share general information or reminders, or to ask people to check their myGov inbox or get in touch with them.
But the ATO will never:
- Send an unsolicited message requesting personal information via a return email or SMS.
- Or send an email or SMS with a link to log in to their online services.
- Ask you to pay a fee in order to receive a refund.
Myth #3 – Scams only happen during tax time
While you may only focus on your tax when it’s time to lodge, scammers are constantly looking for ways to steal your personal details and financial information all year round. You can become a scam target at any time of year.
Some common scams the ATO see year-round involve scammers:
- Phoning people about a fake tax debt, and threatening that they’ll be arrested if they don’t pay it straight away.
- Sending texts to people saying that they’re suspected of being involved in cryptocurrency tax evasion. If you receive this text, don’t click on the link.
- Or sending emails impersonating the ATO and asking for people to update their financial information so their tax refund can be processed.
If you are ever unsure whether it’s really the ATO, do not engage or reply. Instead, phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 or a number sourced from the website to check if it’s legitimate.