The Australian Tax Office (ATO) reports SMS and email scams are rife as businesses and individuals get prepped for the end of the financial year.
In the last 12 months, the tax office has identified and taken action against 595 websites impersonating ATO online services. These fake sites are designed to steal passwords, personal information and identity documents, such as passports and driver’s licences.
Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh says scammers are becoming more inventive as they seek to con taxpayers into divulging sensitive data.
“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,” Loh says.
“This year, the ATO has taken out the guesswork and busted some scam myths to help people stay protected,” said Loh.
Myth #1: Only older people fall for scams
While baby boomers are typically depicted as the common victim of cyber scammers, the ATO warns younger Aussies are usually the most gullible.
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. By contrast, those aged 55 and over, were among those who reported the least financial losses to us.
“We want Gen Z and Millennials to know they need to watch out too, as they are just as susceptible to falling for scams, especially those that involve fake tax debts or threats about alleged fraud,” Loh said.
Loh encourages anyone who receives a call from someone claiming to be the ATO to hang up if the caller sounds at all questionable.
“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 we have a listing of all the current ATO scams or call us on our dedicated scam hotline 1800 008 540.”
Myth #2: Scams are easy to spot. You’d be a fool to fall for one!
Loh warns that many of today’s email and SMS scams are increasingly sophisticated.
“Email and SMS scams are not always full of typos, bad grammar, and promises of riches from foreign royalty. We are seeing many more sophisticated scam messages using official language and fraudulent websites that mimic online services,” Loh said.
“We’ve seen some very convincing email and SMS scams that would trick even the most cautious people,” said Loh.
While the ATO may send emails or SMS of a general nature, Loh explains they will never request personal details. If in doubt, remember, the ATO will never:
■ send an unsolicited message requesting personal information via a return email or SMS,
■ send an email or SMS with a link to log in to our online services,
■ ask you to pay a fee in order to receive a refund.
The ATO recently issued a scam alert for an ATO impersonation scam that has been circulating.
Myth #3 – Scams only happen during tax time
It’s important to remember scammers are around all year round. While scams are rife during tax time scammers are always on eth alert, looking for new ways to steal your information.
“We see different types of tax and super scams happening year-round,” reminds Loh.
he encourages people to stay vigilant to keep their personal and financial details safe.
Loh says common scams include people phoning about a fake tax debt, and threatening that you’ll be arrested if you 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).
While another common scam involves the scammer sending emails impersonating the ATO and asking for people to update their financial information so their tax refund can be processed.
Tax Scams by numbers
■ 50,684 tax and super scams reported in 2021
■ The average dollar amount lost to a tax and super scam was $5600
In 2021, people aged 25 to 34 made the most reports to us about losing money in a tax or super scam. This was closely followed by people aged 18 to 24.
Proportion of people who paid money to tax scammers by age group:
■ 0 per cent of payments made by under 18s
■ 25 per cent of payments made by people aged 18 to 24
■ 26 per cent of payments made by people aged 25 to 34
■ 17 per cent of payments made by people aged 35 to 44
■ 13 per cent of payments made by people aged 45 to 54
■ 8 per cent of payments made by people aged 55 to 64
■ 11 per cent of payments made by people aged over 65
Most tax and super scams still occur over the phone. But in 2022 we’ve seen volumes of email (phishing) and SMS (smishing) scams increase.
Proportion of tax scams reported by channel:
■ 91 per cent of reports about phone scams
■ 6 per cent of reports about email scams
■ 3 per cent of reports about SMS scams
Top reported scams
Our top 3 tax and super scams reported in 2021 related to:
■ Threats of arrest
■ Fraudulent TFN activity
■ Fake tax debts
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