After a run of phone calls from clients who have received text messages from the Tax Office, I thought it was a timely reminder of what to keep an eye out for to keep yourself safe from scammers.

The Tax Office are using electronic communications more and more to communicate with clients about upcoming lodgements, overdue tax payments and missing information such as bank details for refunds. General advice emails and text messages are also being used to notify taxpayers of things like changes in tax rates and fuel tax credit rates.

But how do you pick a scam text message, email or phone call? Here are some tell-tale signs to look for in Tax Office communications.

Phone calls

  • A phone number is shown on caller ID
  • A pre-recorded message is left requesting an immediate call back
  • The caller accuses you of tax fraud or being a criminal
  • The caller threatens you with actions such as arrest, court action or jail

Emails

  • The address looks suspicious such as @ato.com.au or @ato.com (the real ATO addresses end in @ato.gov.au)
  • The email does not address you by name
  • The content contains bad spelling, grammar or graphics
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to release a refund

Text message

  • Contains hyperlinks leading you to webpages requesting information
  • Asks you to call the ATO on a phone number not listed on their website
  • Tells you there is a refund waiting for you, and you need to respond with personal details

If you do receive a phone call, email or text message and are not sure if it is legitimate there are a few things you can do to check.

  • Contact your Accountant as we have access to your Tax Office accounts and can view correspondence on your behalf
  • Contact the Tax Office on their dedicated scam hotline 1800 008 540 to verify if the call, message or email is from them
  • If you have a myGov account log in to check what correspondence has been sent
  • Use the Tax Office phone listing to call the appropriate department for more information. The Tax Office ‘Phone Us’ page can be found at https://www.ato.gov.au/About-ATO/Contact-us/phone-us/
  • Visit the Tax Office Scam Alerts page to see what scams the Tax Office are currently aware of https://www.ato.gov.au/general/online-services/identity-security/scam-alerts/

Although many people are cautious of scammers and may be aware of what to look for, many people are still being caught out. In December 2018 alone the Tax Office have stated payments to scammers totalled over $542,000 and 56% of people contacting the Tax Office had provided personal identification information to scammers.

The simple message is – if in doubt, don’t respond to the call, text message or email. If you’re using a registered Tax Agent, such as Green Taylor Partners, the Tax Office should contact us with any issues. We can then help you with the actions that need to be taken.