The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued a warning over the rise of tax scams in Australia as another financial year draws to a close.
The federal body said it had identified and taken action against 595 websites impersonating its online services in the last 12 months.
According to the ATO, the fake sites are designed to steal passwords, personal information and identity documents, such as passports and driver licences.
In addition, Australians are being increasingly hit by email and text scams purporting to be from the ATO and requesting personal details such as bank details, passwords and usernames.
“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,” said Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh. “However, we see many different types of tax and super scams happening year-round, not just in the lead up to tax time.”
Although older consumers are regarded as being most susceptible to scams, the ATO claimed younger Australians have fallen victim to the most tax scams in the last three years.
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, the ATO said. Meanwhile, people aged 55 and above were among those who reported the least financial losses to the ATO.
“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.
He added that contrary to common perceptions, email and text scams were becoming more sophisticated and “are not always full of typos, bad grammar and promises of riches from foreign royalty”.
Instead, many now are using official language and fraudulent websites that mimic online services, he said.
Red flags instead include an unsolicited message requesting personal information via a return email or SMS; an email or SMS with a link to log in to ATO online services and requests to pay a fee in order to receive a refund.
Loh also dispelled the myth that tax time is the only period to see a flurry of these scams. Common year-round scams include tax debt threats, cryptocurrency tax evasion threats and requests to update personal details.
“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.”
The ATO warned consumers to not engage or reply to any suspicious or unsolicited messages and instead phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 or a number sourced from its website.