Scams alert as tax bill due date draws near
While most taxpayers received a tax refund this year, around one million taxpayers will need to make a payment to the ATO.
With the 21 November due date just around the corner, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) wants Australians to be on high alert for tax scams, especially the increasing trend of scammers demanding payment through Bitcoin ATMs.
Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said scammers are growing increasingly sophisticated and hope to exploit vulnerable people, often using aggressive tactics to swindle people out of their money or personal information.
“November is a prime time for scammers as they know lots of people have tax bills to pay. Be wary if someone contacts you demanding payment of a tax debt you didn’t know you owed,” Ms Anderson said.
Since 1 July this year, Australians have reported more than 28,000 scam attempts to the ATO, and paid almost $1 million to scammers. Payments through Bitcoin ATMs have now overtaken iTunes vouchers as the most common method of scam payment reported to the ATO.
“Our advice is simple – the ATO will never ask you to make a payment into an ATM or via gift or pre-paid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards, or direct credit to be paid to a personal bank account,” Ms Anderson said.
“If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a call, hang up and call us on 1800 008 540,” she said.
Ms Anderson said ATO officials would never demand immediate payment of a debt, use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten taxpayers with arrest.
“That’s just not how we do business. We understand that it can sometimes be difficult to pay tax bills on time, so we urge anyone who is worried about paying to contact us as soon as possible as there are a range of ways we can help,” Ms Anderson said.
“Payment plans can offer reassurance and generally, if you have a tax bill of less than $100,000, you can set up a payment plan through your myGov account. We also have an online payment estimator that will help you work out regular payment amounts and how much interest you could be charged.
“Taxpayers who lodge through a registered tax agent generally have longer to pay their tax bill. Your tax agent will advise if and when any payment is due.”
Ms Anderson was also concerned about the number of taxpayers sharing their personal information with scammers.
“Since 1 July, we’ve seen almost 6,000 taxpayers give away their personal or financial information to scammers through things like phishing scams,” Ms Anderson said.
“Your identifying information like tax file numbers, bank account numbers or your date of birth are the keys to your identity, and can be used by scammers to break into your life if they are compromised.
“If you’ve received an unsolicited email or text, or if you have any doubts about whether any contact is legitimately from the ATO, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to check.
“Scammers have been known to impersonate tax agents too it’s recommended that you hang up and call your agent direct on a number you have sourced independently,” Ms Anderson said.
Top five scammer signs:
- Scammers are often aggressive or abusive
- They will often threaten you with immediate arrest
- They request payment via unusual methods such as iTunes gift cards or other prepaid cards
- They request personal security information such as your tax file number (TFN) or bank details via email or SMS or social media sites
- They ask for money in order to process a refund or other payment.
For more information about how to report a scam see “How to verify or report a scam”.
See also the ABC article “Bitcoin overtakes iTunes vouchers as most common payment demanded by tax scammers”.
15 November 2018.