New scamming method leaving tax agents at risk
The Tax Office has warned tax agents of a new method of phishing for personal and financial information as it clamps down on scammer behaviour.
According to ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson, the new method has fraudsters initiating a three-way phone conversation between the scammer, the victim and another scammer impersonating the victim’s tax agent.
“One recent example had a taxpayer unfortunately thinking the telephone conversation was legitimate, and ended up withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash and depositing it into a bitcoin ATM, fearing the police had a warrant out for his arrest,” Ms Anderson said.
“While we see new scams pop up from time to time, the most common scam is still the ‘fake tax debt’ phone scam, though the ‘fake refund’ and ‘refund for a fee’ scams are on the rise.”
During July and August, the ATO said it received over 7,000 scam reports to its dedicated phone line, with close to $190,000 being paid to scammers and over 1,600 people handing over their personal or financial information.
It said it typically sees those high volumes continue into September and is warning the tax community to be on the lookout for things that don’t look or feel quite right.
According to its own intelligence reports, the ATO also noted an increase in reports of emails and SMS’s phishing for personal and financial information.
As a result, it is taking disruptive action on over 90 fake ATO web pages, said Ms Anderson.
“Australians are generally pretty good at identifying scams but there has been a distinct increase in the level of scam sophistication,” she said.
“The cloned web addresses linked to scam emails are sometimes difficult to distinguish from ato.gov.au and the compromise of your personal information via this method may remain undetected with impacts only realised many months later.”
According to Ms Anderson, knowing how the scammers operate and identifying their motives is key to keeping the information of taxpayers secure.
“Scammers aren’t just looking at getting a quick fix through an upfront payment. They are increasingly looking to get your personal information, and once they gain this data they can sell it or use it to impersonate you for their own financial gain,” Ms Anderson said.