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ATO issues a phone scam warning

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The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has issued a warning about an aggressive phone scam.

Fraudsters are claiming to be calling from the ATO and frightening people into paying a fake tax debt over the phone. If the recipient resists, the fraudster threatens jail time or arrest.

This is a particularly worrying scenario for family members who are elderly or live on their own and are more likely to be the target of this type of scam.

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The Department of Commerce in Western Australia recently cited a case where an 80-year-old pensioner fell victim to a similar phone scam where the caller claimed to be from Centrelink.

The caller claimed the man's pension would cease unless he paid money he supposedly owned to a telco.

Unfortunately, the pensioner lost $15,000, so it's important to spread the word and warn your family and friends so they don't fall victim to a scam.

There are key differences between a scam and a genuine call from the ATO.

"We would never cold-call you about a debt; we would never threaten jail or arrest, and our staff certainly wouldn't behave in an aggressive manner," says Geoff Leeper from the ATO. "If you're not sure, hang up and call us back on 132 869."

Leeper says scammers pretending to be from the ATO are generally more common at tax time.

He encourages people to be vigilant and to protect their personal information. If you think you may have been the victim of a scam, contact the ATO.

You can also stay on top of the latest scams by visiting the ATO website or SCAMwatch.gov.au

Tax phone scam: key points to remember

  • The ATO would never cold-call you about a debt. If you have a debt you will receive a letter or SMS to remind you that a payment is due in the first instance. 
  • The ATO would never threaten jail or arrest. 
  • If you receive a call from the ATO and are concerned about its legitimacy, ask for the caller's name and phone back through the ATO's switchboard on 132 869.

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