The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has reported an increased number of fraudsters contacting members of the public impersonating staff from the ATO.
The ATO has identified that the fraudsters are using pre-recorded phone messages, which states that the recipient has an outstanding tax debt, followed by threats of legal action or arrest if they are not called back to arrange payment.
Through a technique known as ‘spoofing’, the fraudsters are utilising technology to appear genuine by altering the caller ID that is displayed on the recipient’s phone, thus giving the appearance of a genuine ATO number.
As these messages are pre-recorded, calls are being made indiscriminately to hundreds of Australian taxpayers.
The ATO have confirmed that they do not use pre-recorded messages, and that calls from the ATO always appear as a private number.
If you receive a pre-recorded message from someone claiming to be from the ATO, the best thing to do is simply hang up or delete the voicemail message – do not call back on the number provided or supply any personal details.
Keep in mind that a legitimate caller from the ATO, or any other government department will never:
- Make threats of immediate legal action or arrest
- Demand immediate payment, especially through odd methods like cryptocurrency (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum etc.), pre-paid credit cards or gift cards (e.g. iTunes cards)
- Refuse to allow you to discuss the matter with others, such as a family member, friends, or financial advisors
- Keep you on the line until a payment is made
If you have concerns about a caller claiming to be from the ATO, hang up and contact the ATO’s official scam line on 1800 008 540 to verify the legitimacy of the call.