The ATO (Australian Taxation Office) has just recently reported an increase in fake websites offering to provide tax file numbers (TFNs) and Australian Business Numbers (ABNs) for a fee but then failing to provide the service – leaving taxpayers out of pocket.
The fake TFN and ABN services are typically advertised on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The advertisements offer to obtain your TFN or ABN for a fee. Instead of delivering this service, the scammer uses these fraudulent websites to steal both money and personal information. It is free, quick and easy to use government services to apply for a TFN through the ATO or an ABN through the Australian Business Register (ABR).
In 2021, more than 50,000 people reported ATO impersonation scams, with victims losing more than $800,000.
As scammers are continuously developing new ways to target the community by stealing identity details and impersonating the ATO, making threats, and demanding the payment of fake tax debts, we need to take necessary steps for better protection against these scammers. In this situation, awareness and precautions are vital. We have gathered a few essential tips that will help you protect yourself from scammers. Let’s take a look.
Know your tax affairs
You will be notified about your tax debt before it is due. Check if you have a legitimate debt owed by logging into your myGov account via an independent search or by calling your tax agent if you have one (on a number sourced independently).
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, don’t engage
If a call, SMS or email leaves you wondering if it is genuine, don’t reply. Instead, you should phone the ATO’s dedicated scam line at 1800 008 540 to check if the communication is legitimate. You can also verify or report a scam online at ato.gov.au/scams. You can also visit ScamWatchExternal Link to get information about scams (not just tax scams).
Know legitimate ways to make payments
Scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying fake debts via unusual methods. For example, they might demand prepaid gift cards or transfers to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that 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 you can.