“Prosecutions on behalf of the ATO…”
Right now, thousands of Australians are receiving recorded messages about money owed to the Australian Taxation Office or about a fraudulent tax return. According to the ATO, these messages have been particularly frequent over the last six weeks.
We’ve loaded one of the recorded messages to SoundCloud, so you can hear it for yourself: scam.wav.
Be warned. They are scams.
The ATO doesn’t phone and leave messages detailing possible legal action. If necessary, they will contact you in writing.
In at least some of these cases, the scammers have personal details. As well as your name and phone number they might have an address.
Their recorded phone message will direct you to call an Australian number provided. Do not call this number. It redirects to scammers overseas.
A friend alerted us to one of these scams and we rang the number to investigate. The ‘case officer’ asked us for the phone number and first name as a reference. They were then able to tell us the last name and address of the person who had been contacted. This made the phoney case officer seem legitimate.
He then claimed that the only way to stop legal action would be to make a cash deposit as instructed, and to meet with an ATO officer.
The ATO told MoneyTalk that many victims have contacted them — some having paid thousands of dollars as instructed — wondering why they still had an outstanding ATO debt.
Sadly these monies have gone into overseas bank accounts and there is no likelihood of recovery.
What if you are contacted by phone or email and you want to check?
If you used a tax agent for your last tax return, all ATO correspondence should go to the agent, so contact the tax agent.
If you lodged your return yourself, contact the ATO to check, but do not use any contact details provided by the suspected scammer. Use the phone number we provide above or go to the ATO website to find the contact details.
THINK THEY MIGHT BE TRYING TO SCAM YOU?
If you receive a phone message that claims to be from the ATO threatening legal action, ignore it. If you are unsure, phone the ATO on 13 28 69 to check.
If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the ATO, forward the entire email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au.
What are your thoughts?
Have you been a victim of one of these scams? Is there anything else you’d like to know about protecting yourself from fraud?
Join the conversation — leave a comment below and let us know what you’re thoughts are.