With the end of the financial year looming, Consumer Protection is warning WA taxpayers to be aware of scam attempts that usually accelerate over the next six months.
Tax scams continue to take a large financial toll on Western Australians who are usually cold-called by criminals pretending to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and demanding a fictitious tax debt be paid immediately. In most cases, the caller threatens their victim with arrest if the payment is not made.
In the 12 months to the end of May 2019, 43 people reported to Consumer Protection losing a total of $205,250 to tax scams, representing a substantial increase on previous years. In most cases, the victims were asked to purchase iTunes or Google Play cards and supply the codes to the scammers.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping advises those targeted to ignore these calls that come out of the blue.
“Taxpayers need to realise that the ATO doesn’t operate in this way – they won’t call you in a threatening manner and demand immediate payment with iTunes or Google Play cards,” Ms Chopping said.
“Our data shows that these calls peak between July and December when people are submitting their tax returns, so some people might regard getting a call from the ATO at this time is normal.
“If you get one of these calls, just hang up and don’t be intimidated by the bullying tactics the scammers use toward their victims to create fear and urgency.
“If you are still worried, you can contact the ATO independently to verify that you don’t owe any money which will provide peace of mind.”
Advice issued by the ATO to protect against falling victim:
· Know your tax affairs – you can log into myGov to check your tax affairs at any time, or you can contact your tax agent or the ATO.
· Guard your personal and financial information – be careful when clicking on links, downloading files or opening attachments. Only give your personal information to people you trust, and try not to share it on social media.
· If you are unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, don’t reply. Call the ATO on 1800 008 540.
· Know legitimate ways to make payments – scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying false debts in pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, visit ato.gov.au/howtopay.
· Talk to your family and friends about scams – if you or someone you know has fallen victim to a tax related scam, call the ATO as soon as you can or visit ato.gov.au/scams for more information.
Information and advice on scams is available on the WA ScamNet website www.scamnet.wa.gov.au.
Enquiries can be made to Consumer Protection by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 30 40 54.