In January last year, we wrote about the increasing number of email scammers posing as the ATO, attempting to gather personal details from targets. Since then, scammers have become even more direct, making personal phone calls to individuals claiming to be ATO officers. The caller may be offering good news in the form of an unexpected refund, or a dire threat in the form of heavy penalties if an outstanding amount isn’t paid immediately. Either way, the aim is usually to get your bank and personal details in order to scam you out of your hard-earned money!
So, what should you do in this situation?
First. Don’t give them any information! If you have completed your own tax return, you should have specified how you would like to receive any refund, including bank account details. If a tax agent has done your return, they will also have provided the ATO with account details for any refund. In essence, no matter how your return has been filed, the ATO should have all of your details on file, so would have no reason to be contacting you and asking for such basic information.
If for some reason it is an ATO officer, you can request their full name, their extension number and the name of their team leader, plus their extension number. If the caller is trying to scam you, chances are they will hang up at this point knowing they’re unlikely to garner your details; however, even if they do provide details, don’t immediately assume they are legitimate and pass over the information they want. Explain that you will hang up and call the ATO directly. Don’t use a number they offer. The number for the ATO for suspected scams is 1800 008 540. They should be able to verify names and extension numbers for the individual and team leader that you were given and, if legitimate, can then transfer you through.
The same applies to emails and SMS messages purporting to be from the ATO. Do not open attachments in these messages, as they may possibly be harmful to your computer or device. Again, contact the ATO on 1800 008 540 or via email at [email protected]
Remember, the ATO has all of your contact details from your tax return, and if they do need to contact you, the ATO officer on the line will be only too happy to provide their contact details to confirm the legitimacy of their call.
By Jennifer Lowe