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The end of the financial year is the busiest time when tax scammers become active and Consumer Protection is urging people not to fall victim.
According to figures from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), a total of 56 victims reported losing more than $258,000 to phone based tax scams in WA in 2016. Already this year, 8 victims have reported losing more than $15,000 to ATO impersonation scam callers.
Since January 2016, a total of 8,890 Western Australians have reported being contacted by tax scammers over the phone with most reports coming in the months of April, May, June and July.
Targets receive a phone call or a robotic recorded message from a scammer purporting to be from the ATO demanding payment for an outstanding tax debt. Often they become aggressive, threatening arrest or the seizure of assets if the amount is not paid immediately.
Victims are asked to withdraw the money from their bank and send it overseas by money transfer services such as Western Union or Alipay. Others are asked to load money onto a prepay card at the post office or do a bank transfer to a third party bank account operated by the scammers or by an unsuspecting money mule under their control.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said there is another payment method that scammers have been demanding recently.
“In the past year, scammers have been asking some of their victims to pay the supposed tax debt by purchasing iTunes vouchers which, in many cases, can total several thousands of dollars in value,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Once purchased, the victims supply the voucher numbers to the scammers who we assume on-sell them to convert the vouchers into money.
“We have approached retailers to make them aware of this scam hoping their staff will question people if they attempt to purchase iTunes vouchers in large numbers and get them to re-consider their actions.
“People who receive these calls should know that the ATO will never ask for funds in this aggressive manner so don’t be tricked into transferring money for any reason. If in doubt, contact the ATO independently to verify if the call was genuine, but don’t use any contact numbers or email addresses provided by the caller.”
Consumer Protection’s advice:
If you have been contacted by the ATO and want to confirm the legitimacy of the contact, take note of the caller’s name and details and then call the ATO on 1800 008 540. Most importantly, never send money or give financial details to someone you don’t know or trust.
The ATO has further information on its website: https://www.ato.gov.au/Media-centre/Media-releases/Protect-yourself-against-phone-scams/ or search at www.ato.gov.au/scams.
General information and advice regarding scams can be found at www.scamnet.wa.gov.au. Reports of scams can be lodged with WA Scamnet at Consumer Protection by email email@example.com or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
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