ATO: It's prime time for scams

Tax time is a boom period for email and phone scams warns ATO assistant commissioner Graham Whyte

It’s prime time for scams warns the Australian Taxation Office, as it notes an annual spike in the number of email and phone scams reported around tax time.

“It is important to remain alert,” said ATO Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte.

Last year, close to 87,000 phone and email scams were reported to the ATO — a 90 per cent increase from 2014. Those figures could indicate an improvement in awareness of scams, although many Australians were still falling for them.

The ATO said that between January and May this year, 226 Australians had handed over $1.2 million to fraudsters and 1900 had given out personal information such as their tax file numbers.

“Most Australians are pretty good at catching fraudsters in the act. This is clear from the amount of scams reported to us compared to the number of people handing over money and personal information,” Whyte said.

“We encourage people to continue to be vigilant and to protect their personal information by keeping it private.”

The ATO’s warning comes on the same day the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission notified businesses of a current slew of scam emails that purport to come from the ACCC.

The emails alert businesses that a complaint has been made about them, or seek payment for an infringement notice for breach of copyright.

One such email encourages the recipient to find out more by clicking a link disguised as a .pdf which starts a malware-infected .zip file download. Another prompts recipients to respond by sending certain sensitive information to the sender.

“Fortunately, no money has been reported lost from these particular scams to Scamwatch yet,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper. “The emails are easy to spot as fakes and you can avoid falling victim by checking the email address of the sender before clicking on any links.”

The ATO said that although it did communicate with people via bulk email, it would never request personal details, such as banking information. If such personal details were required, email recipients would be redirected to ATO Online services.

The ACCC said if anyone received an unexpected email from the organisation, they should not click on any links or respond

“Instead, independently source contact details for the ACCC through an internet search or phone book,” said Schaper.

There has been a spate of reported scams disguised as communication from government bodies in recent days. Last week the Federal Court issued a warning concerning a fraudulent email that claimed to be from the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. On Monday the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said they were concerned about a phone scam that requested money to progress visa applications.

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Tags malwareATOAustralian Tax OfficescamAustralian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)SCAMwatchscam email

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