Tax Scams: How to spot them and how to deal with them

6 min read

As we head towards the 31 October deadline for lodging your tax return, we’re also heading into peak season for the army of scammers looking to hoodwink individuals and small businesses into parting with their money, their identity or both by claiming to be from the ATO.

Tax scams can take many forms and new ones emerge all the time. The latest involves the fraudsters initiating a three-way telephone conversation between the scammer, the victim, and another scammer impersonating the victim’s tax agent. In one instance, an H&R Block client received such a call whilst actually in our office, meeting their tax consultant! Needless to say, the fraudulent nature of the call was obvious from the outset!

During July and August, the ATO states that nearly $190,000 was paid to scammers and over 1600 people handed over their personal or financial information.

Another common scam involves a text message supposedly from ‘ATO Refund’ offering a tax refund to the recipient.  If the victim clicks on the link, they’ll be asked for their personal details, Tax File Number (TFN) and credit card number, including the three digit security code on the back. Supposedly, this is so the refund can be deposited in the account. In reality, it’s so that the scammer can start stealing money from the credit card.

A slight variation on the same scheme involves the scammer asking for a small fee to be paid via the credit card in order to access the refund. Shortly after paying, much larger deductions will be charged to their card.

In reality, the ATO will never ask for personal information, including credit card details and TFN, by text or email. Nor will they ask you to pay money to access a refund.

Meanwhile, older scams continue to proliferate.

Over the past few years, thousands of people and businesses have received fake emails purporting to be from the ATO, asking them to click on a link or attachment to access further details. That one click can lead to disaster, allowing the scammers to access your computer system and potentially hold you or your business to ransom.

Fake phone calls continue to proliferate, with rude, aggressive callers claiming to be from the ATO threatening taxpayers with arrest and even jail if they fail to pay non-existent tax debts, often by unconventional means such as iTunes vouchers.

What to do about tax scams?

The ATO will never demand payment of tax through a cold call. Nor will they send emails or texts that require you to open attachments before you can take further action.

For phone scams:

o    hang up immediately

o    call the ATO’s scam reporting line 1800 008 540

For email scams:

o    don’t  click on links or open attachments

o    forward the email to

If you have any doubts about whether a caller is genuine or not, you can contact the ATO on 1800 008 540  to verify whether the contact is genuine.

If you have been the victim of a scam

If you have provided a scammer with funds or provided personal details, phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 straight away because your personal details, including your TFN, may be compromised.

You should also contact your bank as soon as possible if you have provided your credit card details as part of the suspected scam.


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