Throughout my travels I hear lots of stories from people, particularly the elderly, about how someone has attempted to the scam them over phone. Unfortunately, I also hear of those times when these scams have succeeded.
The scam that pops its head up around this time of year is the one in which the caller claims to be from Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and states you have a tax debt, that you need to pay up or you’ll be arrested. The scammers then convince you that you can clear your debt by withdrawing your hard earned money and converting it into a pre-paid credit card or an iTunes card. They sometimes even tell you to use a money transfer service to transfer the money to them. They’ll often stay on the phone and talk you through this ‘difficult’ process.
Let me tell you something, this is a scam! They don’t represent the tax office and the tax office does not demand payment with pre-paid shopping cards. The ATO does not make calls such as this and does not accept payments for debt via pre-paid visa or gift cards, money order, into personal bank accounts or money transfers. Legitimate ATO payment methods are available here.
And while we’re here, feel free too to change ‘ATO’ into any government or official agency name you like, the scam works the same.
Please remember, if you are cold called or emailed, never provide personal, bank account or credit card details and do not open links. Ensure you check the bona fides of the caller/sender by directly contacting the agency they claim to represent through numbers available on their website.
If you think you have been contacted by a scammer or would like to confirm the legitimacy of the phone call, you can contact the ATO on 1800 008 540. You can also report the incident through the Australian Cyber-crime Online Reporting.
If you feel you have been compromised it is imperative you contact your bank and credit card provider immediately. If you have provided your TFN to a scammer, contact the ATO immediately on 1800 467 033 so that they can put measures in place to protect you.
If you have information for police, contact Policelink on 131 444 or provide information using the online form 24hrs per day.
You can report information about crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers, a registered charity and community volunteer organisation, by calling 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppersqld.com.au 24hrs per day.