Scams account for devastating financial losses by Australians each year. Scammers deceive victims into paying money or giving out their personal information, often achieving this by pretending to be from trusted organisations like the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The ATO provides tips for how to recognise phone, email and SMS scams and outlines what steps to take to report a scam.
Verifying a scam
The ATO will sometimes contact you by phone, email, SMS and post. If you’re not sure whether it’s really the ATO, do not reply or engage. You should phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 to check.
What to look out for
Phone scammers exhibit behaviours that would never be used by the ATO, including:
- Threatening you with immediate arrest.
- Demanding that you stay on the line until a payment is made.
- Sending unsolicited pre-recorded messages (robocalls) to your phone.
- Tell you that your tax file number (TFN) has been cancelled or suspended due to money laundering or other criminal activity.
- Refusing to allow you to speak with a trusted adviser or your regular tax agent.
- Making a conference call with a (fake) tax professional, law enforcement officer or another official.
- Requesting payment by obscure methods including vouchers, gift cards, virtual currencies, offshore wire transfer, or cash delivery.
- Requesting payment into a personal bank account.
- Asking you to pay a fee to receive a tax refund.
Scammers may use technology to show real ATO or Australian phone numbers in the caller ID or call log. However, calls from the ATO will show as “No Caller ID”. Only phone the ATO on a number you have looked up yourself. Do not call the number shown in the caller ID or call log, or that was given to you in a call.
Reporting a phone scam
If you received a scam phone call and you did pay money or provide sensitive personal identifying information to the scammer, phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 to report it. You should also:
- Make an official report to your local police.
- Contact your bank or financial institution if you provided your credit card or bank details to the scammer.
- Contact the bank you made the payment to and lodge a fraud report.
If you received a scam phone call and did not pay money or provide sensitive personal identifying information to the scammer, you should still report the scam to the ATO using the online Report a scam form.
Email and SMS scams
What to look out for
As with phone scams, perpetrators engaging in email and SMS scams will ask you to do things that the ATO would never ask you to do, such as:
- Providing your personal identifying and financial institution details via a return SMS or email to receive a refund.
- Requesting that you click on a link in an SMS or email to log on to an online service, or to download forms or attachments.
- Asking you for personal identifying information or payments via social media.
While the ATO may use SMS or email to ask you to contact them, and they do have social media accounts, they will never use these methods to request payments or personal identifying information.
Reporting an email or SMS scam
If you received a scam email or SMS and you did pay money or provide sensitive personal identifying information to the scammer, follow the steps outlined above for reporting a phone scam.
If you did not pay money or provide sensitive personal identifying information to the scammer, you should still report the scam to the ATO. You can either:
- Forward the entire email to [email protected]
- Take a screenshot of the SMS and email it to [email protected]
Delete the email or SMS after reporting it to the ATO.