Consumer Protection warns people to be aware of tax scams, prompted by figures which show a large increase in losses suffered by WA victims.
So far this financial year Consumer Protection has received 217 reports of scams with 34 people losing nearly $270,000. This is a massive increase when compared to the 2019 calendar year with 51 reports and 22 victims losing just over $100,0000.
Taxpayers targeted receive hostile phone calls or voicemail messages from scammers pretending to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) threatening arrest unless a fake tax debt is paid. Other variations include the supposed suspension of a Tax File Number or claims that the victim’s bank account has been used for fraudulent activities that are being investigated by police.
The calls can also come from scammers pretending to represent Home Affairs, Services Australia or MyGov. They ask for a variety of payment methods including bank transfer, cash bank deposits, iTunes/Google Play/Steam cards, Neosurf vouchers, gift cards, prepaid credit cards or cryptocurrencies.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe said the scammers often hold their victims on the phone until payment is made.
“By doing this they maximise the pressure on their victims and prevent them from contacting other people who may warn of the possibility of a scam,” Mr Newcombe said.
“If you get one of these calls, don’t be intimidated. Hang up and contact the ATO directly to verify the call (1800 008 540). Don’t use numbers given by the scammer. Do the same if it’s a voicemail and importantly don’t respond, otherwise you could risk becoming a victim.”
Tips to avoid becoming a victim:
• Confirm the caller’s name, title and why they are calling.
• Call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to verify the ATO contact or log in to your MyGov account to check your tax affairs.
• Never send money or give financial/personal details to someone you don’t know or trust.
• If you have provided your financial information, contact your financial provider immediately.
• The ATO will never leave pre-recorded messages.
• Government agencies never demand payment through unusual means like gift cards or cryptocurrency.
• Government agencies will never threaten immediate arrest.
• Do not call back numbers left in voicemails.
• Search for the legitimate number of the agency and call them direct to verify the call
If in doubt or for further information or to report a scam, go to the WA ScamNet website www.scamnet.wa.gov.au or call 1300 30 40 54.