“Help! I’m going to be arrested for tax evasion!”

“Help! I’m going to be arrested by the ATO for tax evasion and I need help now!”. Really? Tax scams and what to do.

help im going to be arrested for tax evasion

Tax scams

We recently received such a call from a distressed caller. After calming the caller down and finding out some details, it was clear that the worried caller had received a hoax call from scammers. The ATO never make calls threatening to arrest people for tax evasion.

Being on the receiving end of a phone call (SMS or email) from fraudsters and scammers relating to tax would frighten many people.

Over the past few years, there has been an increasing number of reports of scammers, pretending to be from the ATO, contacting members of the public by SMS, email and phone.

The scams are also becoming more sophisticated, including:

  • the use of software to imitate ATO phone numbers.
  • the use of a three-way conversation between the scammer, the victim and another scammer impersonating the victim’s tax agent.

Tax scam targeting natural disaster victims

More recently, a new scam targeting victims of the bushfires and floods has recently reared its ugly head.

The scam starts with SMS that supposedly gives you an 8% bonus on your tax return.

The scam then urges victims to start the process of claiming their bonus by filling out a form and provides a link to what looks like the genuine myGov website.

The scammers are actually using a fake link to phish for your personal information which can then be used to steal your identity and commit fraud.

This scam is a classic case of scammers impersonating the ATO in an effort to collect personal information including names, birth dates, addresses, emails, phone numbers and online banking login details.

Once this information is obtained, scammers can use it to commit identify theft, including porting your phone, accessing your bank account, obtaining a loan in your name, lodge tax returns, steal your superannuation, commit other types of fraud or they could on sell the information to others to commit these offences.

Facebook scams

These types of phishing activity are not the only way to fall victim to a scam.

Recently, a Sydney man who advertised tax services through Facebook and Gumtree was sentenced for pretending to be a tax agent.

He charged more than 1,000 people for his services and used their myGov login details to submit tax returns on their behalf.

He then stole their tax refunds by diverting the refunds to his own account.

The moral of the story is, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is!

Never give away your personal information by clicking on links sent to you, unless you’re absolutely sure it is legitimate.

The ATO and Tax Practitioners Board also recommends checking the register of tax agents to ensure that your tax practitioner is registered to ensure you’re not exposed to identify theft.

What the ATO won’t do

While the ATO does send SMS, emails and calls taxpayers frequently, the ATO will never:

  • send an SMS or email asking you to click on a hyperlink to log into myGov or other government websites.
  • ask for personal identifying information in order to receive a refund.
  • threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation.
  • project its number onto caller ID.
  • request a payment of a debt via cardless cash, iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency, or direct credit to a personal bank account.

What to do if you receive a suspicious phone call

If you receive a call from someone saying they are from the ATO but aren’t sure, the best course of action is to hang up and call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to report it.

The ATO will be able to tell you if the call is genuine or not.

What to do if you receive a suspicious SMS

If you receive an SMS claiming to be from the ATO but aren’t sure if it’s genuine:

  • take a screenshot of the text and email it to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au.
  • don’t click on a link, open an attachment or download a file.
  • delete the text.

What to do if you receive a suspicious email

If you receive an email claiming to be from the ATO but aren’t sure if it’s genuine:

Reporting a scam to the ATO

If you’ve fallen victim to this or other tax-related scams, there’s no shame in it.

With increasingly sophisticated scams in play, last year over 15,000 people reported to the ATO that they provided scammers with their personal identifying information.

The sooner you notify the ATO, the better the outcome.

You can report a scam to the ATO by:

Who else you should tell about the scam

If you realise you’ve made a payment to an ATO impersonation scammer after the event:

  • make an official report to your local police.
  • if you’ve given your credit card or bank details to someone who shouldn’t have them, contact your bank or financial institution.
  • if you’ve paid money into a scammer’s bank account, contact that bank and lodge a fraud report.
  • report the scam to the ACCC Scamwatch.
  • report your identity theft to the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Disclaimer: The information on this page is for general information purposes only and is not specific to any particular person or situation. There are many factors that may affect your particular circumstances. We advise that you contact Mathews Tax Lawyers before making any decisions.

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