Three common scam myths and how to stay protected: ATO
Scammers are always looking for new ways to convince unsuspecting taxpayers into divulging personal information, such as bank details, usernames and passwords, according to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
In the last 12 months, the ATO identified and took action against 595 websites impersonating our online services. These fake sites are designed to steal passwords, personal information and identity documents, such as passports and driver licences, said the ATO in a statement.
Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh said, “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.”
“This year, the ATO has taken out the guess work and busted some scam myths to help people stay protected” said Loh.
Below the ATO highlights three common scam myths and suggests how people can protect themselves.
Myth #1: Only older people fall for scams
In the last three years, younger Australians have fallen victim to the most tax scams. 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 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.
“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!
“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,” Loh said.
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 the organisation.
However, there are some tell-tale signs to look out for if an email or SMS says it’s from the ATO. 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
“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,” Loh said.
“We see different types of tax and super scams happening year-round.”
It’s important to always stay vigilant to potential scams, and to keep your personal and financial details safe, said the ATO in a statement.
Some common scams that ATO sees 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.
- sending emails impersonating the ATO and asking for people to update their financial information so their tax refund can be processed.
The ATO Remember:
- Protect personal information like it’s your credit card or tax file number.
- Never share your usernames or passwords with anyone, not even your registered tax agent.
- Be careful about clicking on links, even if a message seems to come from a legitimate source.
- 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 our website to check if it’s legitimate. If you use a registered tax agent, they can help you verify it’s the ATO.
- Only log onto ATO online services directly, never via a hyperlink.
- You can check the status of your refund using the ATO app.
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% of payments made by under 18s
- 25% of payments made by people aged 18 to 24
- 26% of payments made by people aged 25 to 34
- 17% of payments made by people aged 35 to 44
- 13% of payments made by people aged 45 to 54
- 8% of payments made by people aged 55 to 64
- 11% of payments made by people aged over 65
Most tax and super scams, said the ATO, still occur over the phone. But in 2022, the volumes of email (phishing) and SMS (smishing) scams increased, according to the ATO.
Proportion of tax scams reported by channel:
- 91% of reports about phone scams
- 6% of reports about email scams
- 3% of reports about SMS scams
Top reported scams
The ATO's top 3 tax and super scams reported in 2021 related to:
- Threats of arrest
- Fraudulent TFN activity
- Fake tax debts