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Don't hand over details, cash to tax scammers: ATO

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The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning Australians to be on the lookout for scammers at tax time, and not to hand over their personal details or hard-earned cash.

More than 48,000 scams were reported to the ATO between July and October 2016, and that figure is expected to rise this year, says Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson.

"We have already seen a five-fold increase in scams from January to May this year and typically expect further increases during the tax time period," Anderson says.

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The ATO has so far received 17,067 scam reports this year.

Of these, 113 Australians handed over $1.5 million to fraudsters with about 2500 providing some form of personal information, including tax file numbers.

One victim lost $900,000 to scammers over the course of several months, she says, even borrowing money from family and friends.

"The large number of people lodging their tax returns means scammers are particularly active, so it's important to keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious and protect your private information," says Anderson.

Australians are generally good at catching and reporting scams, but some scams are harder to spot than others, she says.

"Scammers locate genuine ATO numbers from our website and project these numbers in their caller ID in an attempt to legitimise their call - a form of impersonation known as 'spoofing'.

"While we do make thousands of calls per week to the community, our outbound calls do not project numbers on caller ID. If one appears, it's most likely a scam.

"People should be wary of emails, phone calls and SMS during tax time that claim to be from the ATO, even if it seems legitimate. If you're ever unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, call us on 1800 008 540. If it's real, we will connect you with the right area of the ATO."

Tips to avoid tax time traps

1. Be aware of what you share

You should only share your personal information with people you trust and organisations with a legitimate need for it.

2. Stay secure

Keep your mobile devices and computers secure by changing your passwords regularly, keep your anti-virus, malware, and spyware protection software up-to-date and don't click on suspicious links.

3. Don't reply

Don't reply to any SMS or email with your personal or financial information.

4. Recognise a scam

If someone asks you for your bank account or personal details, or demands money, refunds or free gifts, be cautious. Also avoid requests in emails or SMS requesting you to click on a link to log onto government or banking digital services.

5. Report scams

If you think you or someone you know might have been contacted by a scammer, or have fallen victim to a tax-related scam, contact the ATO on 1800 008 540.

Visit ato.gov.au/scams to verify or report a scam.

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Sharyn McCowen is Money's online producer. She has a degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University, and was a newspaper reporter before moving to magazines and finance.
Comments
Trevor Hearns
June 29, 2017 1.20pm

I find the following comment to be rather disturbing :

"Scammers locate genuine ATO numbers from our website ......"

How the heck do scammers even manage to get this level of access to what should probably be one of the most secure websites anywhere in the world?

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson, I eagerly await a response to my question,

I am also interested in knowing why an Australian publication is using Americanised spelling - do we really need to follow the Americans in everything, including the bastardisation of the Queen's English?

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