Tricksters try to cash in at tax time


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Tax money scamming comes in several guises around this time of the year as tax returns are completed and we await refunds.

The scams sound convincing and are delivered by phone but more usually by email. And recently, scammers have discovered SMS is an effective route to your money as well.

The most common con is still an email landing in your inbox offering a tax refund - often an unexpected and attractive sum of several hundred dollars - complete with advice on how to claim it.

The email may include an attachment that looks like a legitimate tax refund form with boxes for your name and surname, address, date of birth, mother's maiden name, tax file number, driver's licence and, of course, debit or credit card details, including the CVN on the card.

Just about everything except what you eat for breakfast.

You are told that this information is required so your "refund" can be directly paid into your bank account.

It's all to gather your personal information so the scammer can steal your identity and misuse it. The tax office never asks for your mother's maiden name, or your driver's licence number, credit card details or CVC number.

If you supply all the information asked for, someone will be able to use your ID to open a bank account, apply for a passport or obtain a loan. Delete the email!

And if you disclose that card information, you will be liable for any losses incurred. The bank will not reimburse you.

The phone call comes out of the blue. The caller claims he or she is from the tax office. This should set alarm bells buzzing: the tax office never calls taxpayers out of the blue. It will communicate by letter. Hang up immediately.

Another con is being told you have been selected for a business grant from the federal government. This should immediately raise an alarm under this government.

There are no giveaways up for grabs; more likely they are being taken away. An enticing figure will be attached, such as $7000.

This is a particularly easy claim for scammers to make when a new government sits in Canberra and people are unsure of new policies being introduced.

Ask the caller for a name and phone number, or an address, to check on the claim and the phone line quickly goes dead.

Or you will be given bogus details. They may say they are calling from a particular department of the government or a section of the tax office and provide an incorrect phone number or address.

The email landing in your inbox may be sprinkled with ATO logos, even an ATO- looking address. Don't be fooled.

The email may be headed "Australian Taxation Office - Notification" or "Australian Tax Office - please read this". It may ask you to click on a link that redirects you to a bogus website that looks similar to the tax office's official website.

Scammers are getting cleverer at official-looking logos to top and tail their emails. It all looks legit. The hyperlink may say "Tax refund e-portal". It isn't.

If you click on the hyperlink you will be directed to a page that will ask for your personal details.

Same old story: mining your personal information. If that email is from the ATO, it already has your tax file number and therefore would not ask you for it. The ATO would never ask you for a credit card or bank account number.

If you are still unsure about the status of the email, you should type in the internet address given yourself - rather than clicking on the hyperlink and running the risk of someone proxying your computer or infecting your computer with a virus.

Look carefully at the email address before doing anything. If the address is it is invalid. The ATO's web address is

If you think your TFN has been stolen or misused, call the tax office on 1800 467 033 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday.

The most un-clever and unbelievable version of the tax scam is the cold call that says you may be in line for a refund from the tax office.

The caller says he or she can arrange this for you but first they need you to send money to cover their administration fee. That's an old con. If you send money you will never see it again.

Danger signs

  • The tax office will never contact you by phone. It will write to you at your correct residential address.
  • Be careful with your private information. There are people who know how to use it to steal your money, and quickly.
  • If you have been bitten by a scam, the tax office can't refund your money but you can help others by letting the tax office and the consumer regulator, the ACCC, know how the scam came to you.

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