The Federal Government has warned of scammers targeting Australians ahead of tax time 2023. The number of scam reports received to date this year has topped 19,843 and impersonation scams are becoming increasingly commonplace. These scams typically consist of unsolicited contact through SMS, email, or on social media offering refunds or help to solve tax issues. The ATO recommends not engaging with any unsolicited contact, ending any conversations as soon as possible and independently looking up the ATO’s number to initiate contact in order to verify any communication is genuine.

Tax time scams typically involve the impersonation of the ATO to obtain personal information or solicit unlawful payment. The common tricks tax scammers are using recently include:

  • posing as the ATO on social media and offering to help individuals with tax and super questions, which require the individuals to hand over personal information such as tax file numbers, dates of birth, names, addresses etc;
  • luring unsuspecting individuals with an offer of a fake tax refund in return for the provision of personal information;
  • initiating conversations via phone, social media private messages, email and SMS, attempting to keep the individual engaged for as long as possible through various means including threats and intimidation, offers to help and so on, to either collect personal information or solicit payment.

Many scammers will use spoofing technology to show a real ATO or Australian phone number in the caller ID or call log. The ATO’s genuine calls will be in fact be shown as No Caller ID. The ATO will also never insist on a conference call with a third party, not even your own tax agent or law enforcement officers.

In terms of SMS and emails, the ATO will never send an unsolicited message asking you to return personal identifying information through these channels. It also does not send links or attachments for you to open or download.

If you think you may have fallen victim to a scam, you should contact your bank or financial institution, make an official report to local police, and report the scam through either the ATO’s phone hotline or its specific scams email address.

Tip: The ATO now has a dedicated team that monitors queries and assists taxpayers who have fallen victim to scammers. You can look up and use the ATO’s phone numbers and other contact details on the official ATO website, www.ato.gov.au.