A phone scam reported by local residents last week highlighted a recent warning from the Australian Taxation Office for people to be on high alert for scams.
Fay Eade received one of the scam phone calls said the con was a recorded message that told residents their credit card had been used without authorisation.
“I received a phone call from someone telling me my credit card had been used and had $1000 spent on it on eBay and another $600 on another site I can’t recall as I was in shock,” Ms Eade said.
“They said if I hadn’t authorised it to press one and if I had to press two, I then realised it was a scam.
“I posted it on Neighbourhood Watch and a lot of Yarrawonga people have received it.
“It would panic a lot of people especially the elderly. I know a lot of people would be caught with it.”
The ATO has been warning people since early December to be on high alert to scammers, with over $800,000 reportedly lost during November.
Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said during November and December, the ATO saw an increase in scam phone calls, especially those using software that resembles a legitimate phone number to disguise the caller’s true identity.
“The ATO does not project our numbers using caller ID. You can be confident that if there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it isn’t the ATO,” Ms Anderson said.
According to Ms Anderson, the ATO received more than 37,000 reports of scam attempts in November alone, with one elderly person losing more than $236,000 to scammers between June and November last year.
Ms Anderson urged people to be aware of scammers pretending to be from the ATO.
“Taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message, email or letter about a tax refund or debt, especially if you weren’t expecting it,” she said.
Ms Anderson said while the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that it isn’t the ATO. The ATO will not:
use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation;
request payment of a debt via iTunes, pre-paid visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a bank account with a BSB that isn’t either 092-009 or 093-003;
request a fee in order to release a refund owed to you; or
send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment.
“If you suspect that you have been contacted by a scammer, you should contact our call centre. It’s OK to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or to report a scam,” Ms Anderson said.
“While phone scams are the most common at the moment, scammers are constantly changing tactics. Taxpayers should still beware of unsolicited emails and SMS, with more than 6,000 people handing over their personal or financial information to scammers since July last year.
“Taxpayers play an important role in stopping scammer activity by reporting them to our scam line. Your reports help us to get an accurate picture of what is happening with the current scams, which ultimately helps protect the Australian community,” Ms Anderson said.
The ATO’s dedicated scam reporting line is 1800 008 540.
To see latest alerts and for more information, visit ato.gov.au/scams.
Top tips to protect yourself from scammers;
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 don’t 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 the legitimate ways to make payments – scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying false debts with pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check whether 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 possible.