Over the past few months, the ATO has been tracking a new type of scam which involves the tax payer being contacted over the phone, by email or text and told to update their details and that they have a debt to settle.
The scammer asks the victim to set up cardless cash functions with their bank which allows the user to take money out from ATMs using codes sent to a mobile rather than using a debit card. Scammers have been receiving these codes and stealing vast quantities of money direct from the ATM.
ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foat said, “Scammers are getting better at impersonating large organisations. If you have any doubt whatsoever, don’t respond.”
Ms Foat advised that a number of individuals and at least one small business had fallen victim to the scammers when the access codes were passed on to someone purporting to be from the ATO.
Last year $2 million was lost to scammers between November and January - a busy time of year as payment deadlines approach and when many small businesses and taxpayers are distracted by Christmas. Over $2 million has already been lost so far this year to scams involving people impersonating an ATO officer. More than 100,000 Australians have reported suspicious activity this year with the average loss between $3-4,000 with the biggest individual loss hitting $50,000.
The ATO said it was working with various law enforcement agencies in an attempt to clamp down on the scam but “in many cases, scammers are operating from overseas,” said Ms Float.
The ATO advise that although they do call and email taxpayers, they would never send an online hyperlink to update personal details, nor would they threaten arrest or legal action for failure to immediately pay a debt.