The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) asks Australians to be wary of tax scams after more than $1 million was lost to tax scams already this year.
The consumer watchdog said more than 300 people had reported losing money to online and telephone scams in the last seven months.
The figure is troubling when put against numbers from the previous 12 months, when 400 people reported total losses of $1.6 million to scams in 2015. The majority of these tax scams involve notifications of unpaid tax and include ransomware and phishing attacks.
ACCC deputy chair, Delia Rickard, warned that tax scammers are particularly aggressive so many people feel pressured to pay quickly without questioning them.
“The most threatening scammers even say that police are on their way to arrest you but can be stopped if you pay immediately,” she added.
The ACCC said these scams are effective because they often use personal information found online to try and convince victims they are legitimate.
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) said that while it makes thousands of outbound calls to taxpayers a week, the ATO would never cold call you about a debt, would never threaten jail or arrest, and our staff certainly wouldn’t behave in an aggressive manner.
The ATO does communicate with people via bulk email but would never request personal details, such as banking information.
“If you receive a call or email out of the blue from someone claiming to represent the ATO and that you are entitled to, or owe money – just hang up or press delete,” Rickard said.“Any unusual requests to send money via money transfer, gift card or other digital currency should be treated as highly suspicious. Your personal details, including your Tax File Number, credit card or bank details are valuable and should never be provided to a stranger. If you hand over your personal information to a scammer, they can use it for identity theft or to commit other crimes.”