Australians were conned out of more than $800,000 in November alone as a “tsunami” of scam phone calls threatened people with arrest if they did not hand over their personal details.
New figures from the Australian Taxation Office reveal more than 37,000 scam attempts were reported just last month.
One elderly person has been fleeced of more than $236,000 since June.
“While phone scams are the most common at the moment, scammers are constantly changing tactics,” ATO Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said.
One scam that has ramped up in recent weeks involves a phone call with a robotic voice recording demanding you call back, with the threat:
“If we don’t hear from you we have to issue an arrest warrant under your name and get you arrested.”
Other scams include people pretending to be from the ATO, with the call showing a fake local phone number to give the impression it is legitimate, when in fact it is from an overseas call centre.
“The ATO does not project our numbers using caller ID,” Ms Anderson said.
“You can be confident that if there is a number displayed in your caller ID, it isn’t the ATO.”
The ATO reports emails and SMS scams are also circulating, with more than 6,000 people handing over their personal or financial details to scammers since July.
Ms Anderson said the ATO does contact people by phone, email and SMS, but said there were some tell-tale signs it might be a scam. She said the ATO will not:
- Use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten arrest, jail or deportation,
- Request payment of a debt via iTunes, pre-paid visa cards or cryptocurrency,
- 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.
- The consumer watchdog, the Australian Consumer and Corruption Commission, last week, advised that the voicemail threatening arrest had surged in recent time.
- “We have seen a tsunami of these calls happening … many people are quite shaken by this,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
- “Scams like this are organised crime, they have whole call centres overseas which are just constantly doing them.
- “Authorities from time to time manage to close down whole call centres overseas and we see a slight drop in numbers, but they often pop up somewhere else.”
- People can report scams and get information at the ACCC dedicated site scamwatch.gov.au
- People can also search for current ATO scams at ATO Scam Alerts
- The ATO’s dedicated scam reporting line is 1800 008 540.
How to protect yourself from scams:
- If you receive a phone call or email out of the blue from someone claiming to be from the Commonwealth DPP or Australian Taxation Office telling you about an arrest warrant, hang up.
- If you have any doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a government department, contact the body directly.
- Don’t rely on numbers, email addresses or websites provided by the caller — find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
- Never send money via wire transfer to anyone you do not know or trust.
- Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
- If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
Source: Scamwatch, ACCC
If you believe your information may have been compromised via a scam, please contact the ATO reporting line on 1800 008 540.
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