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Tis the season

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas is here and along with it comes the break we’ve been working for all year, the panic of last minute shopping, and also, scams. Scammers see Christmas as a time of great opportunity because there is so much going on in everyone’s lives that they can be more vulnerable to scams. Here are a few tips in relation to Australian Tax Office (ATO) related scams.

The ATO will contact taxpayers in a few different ways. Previously, they would only use letters or phone calls, however, even Government organisations have moved into the digital age and the ATO are now also contacting people by email or text message.

The ATO will;

  • Contact you by phone call in relation to an unpaid debt or overdue lodgements.
  • Contact you by letter in relation to an unpaid debt or overdue lodgements.
  • Contact you by email, if you have signed up for email notifications, to advise you there is a new activity statement or new message in your inbox
  • Contact you by text message to advise you there is a new activity statement or new message in your inbox.

The ATO will not;

  • Threaten you with jail*
  • Threaten you with law suits*
  • Have/Leave automated messages asking you to call back
  • Accept payment in gift cards of any kind
  • Email you with payment details along with an outstanding debt amount
  • Text or email you an IP address (IP addresses look like sets of numbers separated by dots) to log in to their website or make payment.

*Note, the ATO can take this action but it takes time and ongoing communication before it gets to this point.

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming you have an overdue tax debt, and you use a tax agent to prepare your income tax returns each year, your first contact after receiving the call should be your tax agent. As tax agents, we can see your current tax balances and outstanding lodgements so we can quickly verify if the call is legitimate or not.

If you don’t use a tax agent to prepare your tax return each year, you should log in to your My.gov account, ensuring you DO NOT follow a link from an email or text message (type the web address out yourself) and then navigate to the linked Australian Taxation Office portal. From this portal you will be able to see any outstanding tax amounts.

In either case, it is important to never give out personal information until you have been able to verify the caller or website you are accessing is legitimate.

If a voicemail asks you to call back, you can verify the call-back number from the ATO website. Some scammers will act as ATO employees when you call back, giving the impression they are legitimate.

Some of the current scams that are making the rounds include;

  • An automated message that says you have an outstanding tax debt and if you don’t call back a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
  • An email that looks like it has been generated from My.Gov which says you have an overdue amount and you should click the link and log into your account to make payment.
  • A text message from Medicare that says you are entitled to a further refund from Medicare and you should click the link and enter your personal details to get your refund.

If you believe you have received a scam call or would like to report a scam, the ATO have a hotline available. Call 1800 008 540 to report a scam or if you believe you have fallen victim to a scam. If you have provided your tax file number to someone who shouldn’t have it, you can contact the ATO client identity support centre on 1800 467 033.

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